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Dancing Bear

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Ah, ballet...
"The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all."
Russian proverb

A dancing bear is any work of media that attracts viewers not because it's particularly entertaining—many of them, in point of fact, are dull or otherwise pointless—but because of some gimmick involved in the production: Any work for which the method by which it is created is more interesting than the result.

Featuring noteworthy non-actors in major roles (or celebrity guest stars for television episodes) can qualify something for this trope: we don't go to movies with Paris Hilton in them to see how well she acts, after all. Particularly large casts, shockingly difficult productions, unique production methods... anything that's used to sell a work more than its actual content can qualify it for Bear status. The Oner is usually a Bear as well, and Live Episodes too. A Tech Demo Game runs a high risk of being a bear, if the developers cannot balance its gimmick with good gameplay. Another type of Bear is The Item Number, especially if it ranks high on the Fanservice scale and/or features a very well-known "item girl" (or guy).


Note that this doesn't include works in which outside events make us more interested in it — The Dark Knight certainly got a considerable amount of attention as a result of Heath Ledger's death, but it wasn't a Dancing Bear. For that, see Reality Subtext.

See also Come for the X, Stay for the Y, when the work has a lot more going on than just a bear that dances, and Just Here for Godzilla, for cases where that happens, but the audience doesn't care. See also Overshadowed by Controversy, where a Dancing Bear is especially well-known for controversial moments regardless of other factors.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • The anime of The Flowers of Evil attracted viewers mainly because it was rotoscoped, and the quality and/or terribleness of this animation style was discussed far more than the show's actual content.
  • This Boy Can Fight Aliens! gained attention for being entirely animated from a home computer.
  • Voices of a Distant Star is an amazing short film as it is. What largely drew people's attention to it initially, on the other hand, was the fact that it was entirely animated by one man on his home computer.
  • Ghost Stories became this when it was localized in the west. Due to the localizers having no set limitations for what they could or couldn't do, they let the voice actors improvise almost the entire performance while still following the basic story, leading to an officially licensed Gag Dub. The dub is pretty much the only reason anybody watches the series; the few people who bother to watch the original Japanese tend to say that its just a mediocre horror anime and the Gag Dub is the only thing really interesting or memorable about it.
  • When the One Piece movie The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta was released in the west, its main appeal wasn't the content of the largely-panned recap movie itself, but rather the fact that it was the USA's first uncut One Piece dub, and featured the new English cast. For a couple of years it also served as a good preview for how Funimation would handle the full-length Alabasta arc from the TV series.
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You is a pretty good manga in its own right, but it’s quite likely that the writer made such a huge harem just to show off his ability to make 100 distinct and well-rounded characters in the first place. In fact, many readers admit to doing so just to see if the story pulls off having 100 unique girlfriends.
  • A Manga World That Gets One Page Once A Year has its gimmick right in the title. While the three pages thus far aren't by any means unfunny, the main interest is in just seeing how long the author will keep up with it.

  • William Wegman's works are known specifically because of his use of Weimaraners in them.
  • Abstract paintings have occasionally sold for respectable sums because, and only because, they were painted by apes, elephants, or octopuses.

    Comic Books 
  • The primary reason people read 100 Months is because it is the last work John Hicklenton completed before he died, and indeed completing it was the only thing that delayed him taking his own life.
  • The DC Comics series 52 was sold not on its content but on the fact that it was a 52-issue miniseries that would publish an issue a week (for a year) in "real time" (i.e., the events of each issue took place over the course of the week following the week during which the events of the previous issue took place). It also filled in the year of time skipped during DC's "One Year Later" event, during which Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were missing. It was generally well-received, but led to a brief trend of weekly miniseries for DC, some of which were ... less good.
  • In-universe, Astro City has a restaurant and nightclub owned by cartoon-character-come-to-life Loony Leo. It's noted that it doesn't particularly matter how good the food, drink, or entertainment is; the novelty of going to a restaurant owned by a cartoon character is plenty.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss is generally regarded as, at best, an average and unimaginative film. But if nothing else many folks who've seen it or at least know of it appreciate the fact that, like Voices of a Distant Star above, it was animated entirely by one man.
  • Bartok the Magnificent. Ignoring the fact that the film does in fact have a dancing bear, the film was originally marketed on the fact that it starred a minor, comedic bit player from the then-hit Anastasia as the main character. Today, it is mainly remembered today because it is the only sequel to a Don Bluth film that was directed by Don himself.
  • Both Disney and Pixar apparently considered the original Toy Story an example of this. Promotion centered on the fact that this was the first entirely CGI feature-length film. Some of the original trailers featured only the darkest sequences and an 'adult' score different from the movie's, and practically 'forgot' to tell the viewer that this is a family film about two toys wanting to return to their owner.
  • The Thief and the Cobbler is mostly remembered for its extremely long and Troubled Production.
  • Sausage Party was promoted for being the first ever R-rated CGI feature film. Its quality is debatable, some thinking that it's a funny and even thought-provoking parody of Pixar films, others arguing that it's trying too hard to be edgy.
  • The "unholy trinity," Watership Down, The Plague Dogs, and Felidae. Three animated films known almost solely for masquerading as kid's filmsnote  before surprising you with copious amounts of death, blood and gore, disturbing imagery, and in the latter, a graphic sex scene with cats.
  • While Winnie the Pooh (2011) is considered a good movie in its own right, it is mainly known for being Disney's last hand-drawn film before the company gutted its 2D department in favor of CGI films.
  • Trolls: World Tour got a pretty mixed reception, but many people showed interest in it just because of its release strategy: to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, it was one of the first animated features to be released for streaming services on the same day as its theatrical release, possibly setting a precedent for other movies struggling to find an audience with theaters closed around the world.
  • Sir Billi is notable for two things: first, it is the first CGI animated film to be made entirely in Scotland, and second, Sean Connery came out of retirement to voice the main character (reportedly, both because of the above and So My Kids Can Watch), which ended up being his final acting role. Other than that, it's considered pretty bad.
  • A Boy and His Atom, a 2013 short animated film made by manipulating individual atoms and photographed entirely with a scanning tunneling microscope.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Act of Valor is a feature-length film showcasing active-duty Navy Seals using their actual equipment and methods.
  • All the Money in the World had to entirely replace a major actor after Kevin Spacey's history of sexual assault was exposed, with his part being entirely re-shot with Christopher Plummer just a few weeks before its release. Several reviews commented that the seamless integration of the actor change is easily the most interesting thing about the film.
  • Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, a 2002 film produced entirely by Inuit, is a reasonably good movie... but the fact that it won 20 international awards and was nominated for ten more can really only be explained by people's appreciation for the fact that a film made by, for, and in the Inuit community (with all of the dialogue in Inuktitut) was able to dance at all.
    • The 2006 film Ten Canoes received attention for similar reasons: the entire cast are Aboriginal Australians, and all of the on-screen dialogue is in the Yolngu or Kuninjku languages (narration is available in either Yolngu or English). Like Atanarjuat, it won or was nominated for a big pile of awards.note 
  • Avatar. The whole fuss about the technological achievements necessary to pull the movie off, including 3D digital film cameras, motion capture refinements, etc. The never-fully-disclosed but definitely astronomical budget and the marketing-induced hype also contributed to its status as this.
  • Bird Box got a lot of attention for the fact that the actors were actually blindfolded and unable to see for most of their scenes, rather than wearing fake blindfolds with small eyeholes or being given CGI blindfolds in post production. The viral "Bird Box Challenge" meme also led a lot of people to see what all the fuss was about.
  • Blood Harvest's main draw is the fact that it stars Tiny Tim as a deranged clown.
  • Boyhood is a pretty standard Slice of Life film about life and growing up. The real draw is the fact that it purposefully took over ten years to produce as it averted Time Shifted Actors and was filmed at different points using the same actors. So when we see six year old Mason grow into an adult we really are seeing his actor transform from a child into a man.
  • Cannibal Holocaust is remembered for being the originator of the found-footage genre, and the legal battle that ensued when the director was accused of making a snuff film—and his actors had to break contract to appear in court and prove they had not in fact been murdered on screen. Speaking of which, another thing that draws attention to it is the fact that several animals involved in the production actually were killed onscreen.
  • One of the selling points of the infamous 2019 film adaptation of the musical Cats was its "digital fur technology", using CGI and motion capture (as well as oversized sets) to transform its All-Star Cast into dancing anthropomorphic felines. Though if anyone who laid eyes on the final product is to be believed, it ended up working against the movie's favor.
  • The Cloverfield Paradox had already picked up a lot of notoriety by the time Netflix acquired the rights, due to its long Troubled Production becoming the stuff of legend, and its release date was still a complete mystery. Interest then skyrocketed when Netflix unexpectedly aired a trailer during the 2018 Super Bowl, which revealed that the film would be available to stream later that night, far sooner than anyone had anticipated. The brilliant surprise release attracted a lot of viewers, despite the movie itself ultimately getting a pretty cold reception from critics, general audiences, and Cloverfield fans alike.
  • Comrade Kim Goes Flying, a British-and-Belgian-financed Romantic Comedy set and filmed entirely in North Korea.
  • Brandon Lee was killed in a freak accident during the filming of The Crow, and in the scenes that hadn't been filmed yet he had to be digitally inserted or replaced by a double. This generated a lot of interest in the film at the time.
  • The sole selling point for the film The Cure For Insomnia was that, with a running time of 87 hours, it was the world's longest movie.
  • Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is built around the clever editing and production tricks that make it seem like Steve Martin is directly interacting with the characters in old movie clips. Without those, there wouldn't be a movie.
  • Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi was seen as impressive due to being a major studio release with an initial budget of $7,000.
  • Escape from Tomorrow probably wouldn't have received as much hype as it is were it not for the fact that the film — a dark surrealist neo-noir depicting a man slowly going insane — was extensively sneak-shot throughout Disney Theme Parks.
  • Fitzcarraldo is best-known simply because of its Troubled Production, and the fact that you're really watching people moving a ship through the jungle, using techniques even more difficult than the ones of the real event it's based on.
  • Freaks is arguably remembered because it stars legitimate carnival performers as the titular 'freaks'. There's also the urban legend that the sight of these people on film caused one audience member to suffer a miscarriage.
  • The Will Smith vehicle Gemini Man was marketed almost entirely on the novelty of Smith playing both main characters, one of whom is a younger clone created with de-aging technology. The general reaction has been negative, however, with many feeling that it wasn't a great movie beyond the gimmick. Some have also opined that it probably would have been more impressive with an actor who has aged less gracefully than Smith.
  • Gigli sold itself largely on the idea that it would be a romance starring Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck when the two were known for being in a relationship (with "Bennifer" being a common tabloid fixture). Unfortunately for the film, it had the exact opposite effect—the movie bombed so hard that it's often suggested to be a reason they broke up not long after.
  • Hardcore Henry is a high-octane, fast-paced action film best known for being shot entirely from the first-person perspective of the main character. Unsurprisingly, it was influenced largely by First-Person Shooter games.
  • House of Wax (2005) is a middle-grade slasher flick whose claim to fame, and chief advertising gimmick, is the chance to see Paris Hilton die messily.
  • The Human Centipede, which is about three people getting sewn together anus-to-mouth. The premise is far more horrifying than the execution. Film critic Roger Ebert refused to give it a star rating because it was so absurd, and anyone who wanted to see such a film would do it whether Ebert approved of it or not.
  • Heath Ledger's last film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Ledger only managed to film half of his role before dying, and Colin Farrell, Jude Law and Johnny Depp were brought in to play the character when he was in an Eldritch Location. Quite a few people watched the film just to see if they could pull it off.
  • Incubus, filmed entirely in Esperanto and starring William Shatner.
  • The Jazz Singer in 1927 was the first film to feature lip-synchronized singing and dialogue, albeit only in a few scenes. It served as a Genre Turning Point for film in general, ushering in the Rise of the Talkies.
  • Jumanji: The Next Level was mainly marketed on its central gimmick of featuring the four main actors from the first movie (with one exception) returning as completely different characters with completely different personalities. The four leads play Digital Avatars in an in-universe video game, and three of them are controlled by different players in the sequel.
  • The Machinist may be a tense, well-acted drama, but it has also become famous for the ghoulish appearance of Christian Bale, who starved himself down to a skeleton for the role.
  • At the time it was released, Manos: The Hands of Fate piqued its premiere audience's interest for being a film made on a dare between an actual filmmaker and a manure salesman. Said salesman used a single camera to record all of the footage in the film, and hired a man (John Reynolds) to play a satyr using special prosthetics. Of course, the film became infamous for how bad it was, and later received new interest for being one of the worst films ever screened on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was also notable for being the only role Reynolds (Torgo) ever played - he killed himself a month before the film opened.
  • Memento, the film told backwards! Probably!
  • Michael Jackson's This Is It wouldn't have been made if not for the fact that Jackson died before the concert series he was rehearsing for could take place, leaving the rehearsal footage that was shot for his personal use as the last footage of him performing at all, and thus of huge interest to his fans.
  • Million Dollar Mystery would have been an entirely forgettable Box Office Bomb if not for the gimmick in its marketing — at the end of the film, audience members were promised the chance to win one million dollars by following clues to answer the film's mystery.
  • The Irish film My Name Is Emily was given a lot of press for the fact that its director suffered from motor neuron disease and directed the entire film through eye-recognition software. Other press came from a scene where hundreds of extras run naked into the sea.
  • Pixels got a lot of buzz early on because of the involvement of many licensed video game characters. Sadly, it didn't work out as well as Adam Sandler hoped, and the film got a poor reception from critics and regular moviegoers alike.
  • Primer is mostly well known for having No Budget and being made by an engineer rather than anyone with a film-making background. And for being impenetrably confusing.
  • A common criticism of Oceans 8 was the perception that it tried to use its all-female cast as a Dancing Bear; the cast was pretty much the only thing setting the movie apart from your average heist movie, and the advertising placed a great deal of emphasis on it, leading to accusations that the Feminist Fantasy angle was just an attempt to invoke this trope and prop up a mediocre movie.
  • The film Redline allegedly went for this by getting star Eddie Griffin to crash a car as a publicity scheme. It failed miserably because car fans, presumably the target market, were outraged at the destruction of an extremely expensive and rare car as part of the stunt. According to Griffin's side of the story as told in "Freedom Of Speech", the car crash was completely unintentional on his part and was not a publicity stunt.
  • Revolutionary Road is a movie about a couple with a disintegrating marriage...and the only film Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet starred in together since Titanic (1997). Because of this, the major reason to watch it is just to see Jack and Rose breaking up.
  • Rope is an interesting subversion; the big Dancing Bear element it was advertised on (a film with as few cuts as possible) wound up being largely forgotten in favor of the writing and performances. Alfred Hitchcock considered the movie a failed experiment, and critics tend to agree that the technical execution of the Dancing Bear left much to be desired, leaving nothing memorable about the film except the legitimately gripping and well-written story.
  • The 2003 film Russian Ark is a 90-minute exploration of Russia's legendary museum and historical building the Hermitage. The film takes place over centuries, features a literal Cast of Thousands, has amazing costuming, good performances, and so on. The entire movie is also filmed in one single continuous shot, without a single cut.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Sin City were novel when they came out in the mid-2000s because they were among the first major films to use a "digital backlot" which blended live action characters with entirely digital backgrounds. The former was also noteworthy for featuring Sir Laurence Olivier a full fifteen years after his death, via the use of careful editing of previous recordings. This was in fact the main reason Jude Law decided to star in the film.
  • Samuel L. Jackson claims he was in the movie Snakes on a Plane only because of the title. The name alone made it vastly popular on the Internet, long before it was released. Ironically, although the Internet buzz led the studio to expect "dancing bear" type success at the box office, the film itself didn't do nearly as well as expected.
  • The first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) featured such bad CGI for the title character that the movie was pushed back and redone before the second trailer came out; see here to compare. Many believe that this particular case of Troubled Production actually helped boost interest in the film—it had the highest-opening weekend for a video game movie (making $68 million compared to an estimated $40-45 million).
  • South of Sanity is a Slasher Movie shot in Antarctica by the crew of a base stationed there.
  • The Terror of Tiny Town is a 1938 Western movie with an all-midget cast.
  • Timecode is not just done in Real Time, but in real time with a four-way split screen throughout.
  • William Castle's The Tingler introduced a "spine-tingling" sensation people experience when afraid of something. Certain seats in theaters showing the film had devices installed so that at certain points the viewer would feel something crawling up their back...
  • Tiptoes wouldn't be nearly as well-known were it not for its absurd teaser trailer that attempts to make a serious drama about dwarfism into a romantic comedy from the 90's, the Troubled Production or Gary Oldman's out-of-turn performance as a dwarf (complete with prosthetics).
  • For Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), Blake Edwards and MGM/UA used mostly-unused scenes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) of the late Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau for the film's first half by putting them into a different storyline via new scenes with the series regulars. The second half, after Clouseau "goes missing", is a Clip Show of his greatest hits tied together with a reporter investigating the matter. Pitted against a number of production obstacles, Edwards' new film became a dancing bear that spiked the audience's curiosity to come out and judge if he could make it funny. The fact that Edwards couldn't became clear when Sellers's widow successfully sued him and the studio for tarnishing her late husband's image. This proved a bad omen for the next film, 1983's Curse of the Pink Panther, which picked up where this left off to introduce Clouseau's Replacement Scrappy.
  • TRON was viewed as this by the Hollywood community when it was released. Many people went to see it simply for the computer animation, not out of any expectation of high entertainment.
  • Wake Up, Ron Burgundy is a semi-sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. It is notable because the film is comprised of deleted scenes, outtakes and unused subplots from the original film - there was so much material that the filmmakers cobbled it together and released it direct-to-DVD.
  • Waterworld generated interest from its floating sets, which caused it to become a highly troubled production and inflated its budget to the largest of any film at the time.
  • The Brown Bunny, an independent movie that advertised its unsimulated oral sex scene starring director/actor Vincent Gallo and his then-girlfriend Chloe Sevigny. It also achieved notoriety for the disastrous reception its rough cut received at Cannes, causing a public flame war between Gallo and Roger Ebert.
  • Birdman plays with this both In-Universe and out. The film is shot almost entirely as an Epic Tracking Shot (it isn't really, but it does a very good job of simulating one), with only a few visible cuts in its entire run, which would qualify it for this. More interestingly, it focuses on the main character trying to break into theater without much success, and the play includes a scene where his character commits suicide. At the climax of the movie, he switches out the prop gun for a real one and attempts a real suicide, which ends up winning the play far more accolades and attention than it was getting earlier by virtue of this.
  • Roar — a 1981 passion project by Tippi Hedren — is best remembered for taking eleven years to finish because the film had a large cast of African wild animals that resulted in hundreds of attacks and injuries on set. Some reviews of the film said it was worth watching just to see lions, tigers and cheetahs interact with the main cast.
  • The Irish film Spears got a lot of attention surrounding the fact that it was a low budget indie that was shot in London, Berlin and Florence in addition to Ireland - all through self-funding too.
  • The film Saratoga was marketed around being the last performance of Jean Harlow before she died. As she'd only filmed half of her part, they resorted to extensive camera tricks, body doubles and soundalikes - so it became something of a challenge to guess which scenes featured the doubles.

  • The only reason why anyone would want to read Atlanta Nights is to see what a deliberately awful book would be like.
  • Clarissa is remembered for being the longest novel in the English language.
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby received a lot of attention for the laborious way the novel was written. The author suffered "locked-in syndrome" and blinked his left eyelid to respond to a transcriber repeatedly reciting a French language frequency-ordered alphabet until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter. This took ten months. The book itself was well-received.
  • The most widely publicized fact about Eragon was that the author finished the first draft when he was fifteen — he was nineteen by the time it was published (after extensive revision) and also received a lot of critical slack for that reason. Whether or not it has outgrown its beardom is a matter of debate.
  • Though Finnegans Wake is made by the same author as the better known, better studied Ulysses, most people know the book for its odd, stream-of-consciousness writing style.
  • Look upon this lipogrammatic work Gadsby, in which a story is told without using a particular glyph (past 'd', prior to 'f') commonly found in this script, as is this particular saying. A similar motif occurs within A Void.
  • It really didn't matter how good Go Set a Watchman actually was; it was guaranteed to be a smash success purely out of the fact that it was only Harper Lee's second published book a full fifty-five years after she wowed the literary world with To Kill a Mockingbird. You're rather more likely to find someone who knows that part, but not that Watchman was actually written first, and then Lee's agent suggested she do a book with the characters as kids instead.
    • Controversy also played a part: some have claimed that the quite-elderly Lee, who had chosen not to publish the book for decades, was not of sound mind and was being taken advantage of. The book also Ret Cons the much-beloved Atticus Finch into a racist, which left a bad taste in many fans' mouths.
  • Handbook for Mortals is well-known for topping the New York Times Bestseller List...for twenty-three hours. It premiered at #1 out of nowhere, from an unknown author, and some investigating quickly determined that said author had gotten people to buy it en masse just to get on the list. People who then read it out of curiosity often compare its quality to My Immortal, to the point where a rumor began that they were written by the same person.
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is best remembered for its exposure of the unsanitary practices of the meat-packing industry. It is often used as an example of the muckraking genre and helped lead to the creation of the FDA. However, Sinclair intended the book to be an indictment of capitalism and a paean to socialism. He famously said that he "aimed for the nation's heart but accidentally hit it in the stomach."
  • Le Train de nulle part, a novel without verbs.
  • Henry Darger's The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, usually abbreviated as In the Realms of the Unreal, is an enormous 15,000+ page work illustrated with loads of "outsider art" that is better known for its insane length and decades-long composition than for any artistic merits it might have (though really, the length and the large number of important illustrations make a wide release of the story very challenging, so it's not like people can simply pick it up at a library/bookstore/e-book shop to judge said merits on their own).
  • To many people, War and Peace is remembered because it's one of the longest classic narratives ever written.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey is pretty much remembered for two things: being published Twilight fanfiction and featuring BDSM.
  • The Cormoran Strike Novels jumped from relative obscurity to bestsellers after it turned out that their author was actually none other than J. K. Rowling.
  • Woman's World by Graham Rawle is notable as it was created solely using clippings from old magazines. More here.
  • Hun er vred ("She is angry") is a feminist post-colonial novel by Maja Lee Langvald. It's a harsh critique of the international adoption industry. But what gets it the most attention from people is that every single paragraph in the entire novel starts with the words "She is angry."
  • The Well of Loneliness is the first high-profile novel with an explicitly lesbian theme, so it is clearly an important novel. Opinions vary on whether or not it is also a good novel.
  • Toni Morrison's short story "Recitatif" is mainly known for two things:
    • 1) Being Morrison's only published short story.
    • 2) Its central gimmick, in which the audience is told that one of the two main characters is African-American, while the other is white — but the narration never specifies which of them is which, forcing the audience to confront their assumptions about race.
  • The first Nancy Drew novel, The Secret of the Old Clock, has been read more than any other book in the series—more than most mystery novels in general, actually. That's mainly because it was the start of the famous Nancy Drew franchise. Judged on its own merit, it's not exactly trash, but it's still pretty corny by today's standards, and quality-wise it's not much better or worse than the other books in the series.
  • House of Leaves is probably primarily known as "that book with the weird page formatting and nested stories", and secondarily as a horror novel.
  • Vorkosigan Saga directly invokes the trope more than one. Considering Barrayar is Space Russia, it's apropriate. In Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Cordelia discusses Aral's artistic talent with her grandson.
    Alex: Why didn't he show them to anybody? Or give them away? There's so many. Didn't anybody want them?
    Cordelia: He showed them to a few people. Me, Oliver, Simon sometimes. I'm sure quite a few people would have wanted them, but not... not for the drawings themselves. They'd have wanted them because the Lord Regent or the Admiral or the Count had made them, or worse, to sell for money. (pause) He said it would be like that bicycle-riding bear someone was parading around the district, once. It wasn’t that the bear was good at bicycling, it was just the novelty of a bear riding at all.
  • Moll Flanders is best known for the extremely Long Title, with the full title being: The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Etc. Who Was Born In Newgate, and During a Life of Continu'd Variety For Threescore Years, Besides Her Childhood, Was Twelve Year a Whore, Five Times a Wife [Whereof Once To Her Own Brother], Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon In Virginia, At Last Grew Rich, Liv'd Honest, and Died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Charmed episode "Cat House" was marketed around the fact that it was a unique spin on the Clip Show - Phoebe and Paige would be sent back in time, and be superimposed over clips of previous episodes. There was a lot of buzz over how they would get around showing clips of Prue - as Shannen Doherty had forbidden the producers from ever using archive footage of her. The result was one shot of Prue from behind (which was done by a stunt double) and a clip from when she was turned into a dog. The show did a couple more episodes like this, but the first one is what's remembered.
  • Home Movie: The Princess Bride's primary draw is watching an All-Star Cast fool around at home reenacting a classic film like the rest of us with cheap costumes and props and filming on smartphones, without professional stylists or makeup artists, without CGI or Photoshop, away from red carpets and film sets and perfect lighting, all while still bringing their A-game and treating it as seriously as a "real" project. It's drawn comparisons to celebrities discovering Vines several years late, or old-school YouTube content from the mid/late 2000s.

  • The 1984 album Neptune by "one man band" Celluloid is notable for being entirely played on the Mellotron.
  • Charm City Devils' cover version of "Man of Constant Sorrow," the bluegrass song popularized by O Brother, Where Art Thou?, is known primarily because it's done as a metal song.
  • Foo Fighters released Sonic Highways in 2014. Though it was fairly well-reviewed overall, the main grab was that it featured eight songs about major cities recorded in said cities. The accompanying documentary miniseries emphasized this point further.
  • Erik Satie's "Vexations" is a single page of piano music with a suggestion to play it 840 times in a row. The first performance to follow Satie's suggestion to the letter took place in 1963, with a tag team of pianists, and lasted over 18 hours.
  • While critics are mixed on the quality of Guns N' Roses's forever-delayed Chinese Democracy, fans are amazed it was released at all. Its actual musical qualities are submerged beneath the fact it notoriously took fifteen years (and a record-breaking alleged $13m) to make.
  • Gustav Mahler's eighth symphony for large orchestra and multiple choruses was billed in its premiere as "Symphony of a Thousand" (most modern performances fall a few hundred short of that number); Mahler privately mocked this, calling it a "Barnum and Bailey production."
  • This video contains perhaps the worst rendition of the James Bond theme you will ever hear. What makes it fascinating is that it is performed by miniature autonomous robotic helicopters.
  • John Cage's 1952 'composition', 4'33". It's famous for being "four minutes and 33 seconds of silence", often either regarded as a sublime anti-music or an Emperor's New Clothes of modern art. More technically, it's not silence but ambient white noise: literally the sound of a pianist sitting there quietly in front of an audience for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and not playing.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen's opera Light contains a piece that is supposed to be played by a string quartet sitting in four different flying helicopters, their music then transmitted to a big hangar for people to listen to.
    • Another Stockhausen opus, Gruppen, calls for three separate orchestras to perform equally distant from the audience. This plan doesn't fit with many concert halls.
  • Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch is a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (which typically runs 65-70 minutes) digitally stretched to 24 hours without pitch shifting.
  • Much of the early press surrounding Little Big Town made note of the fact that all four members alternate as lead singers, then a really novel concept for a country group. Fortunately, they've also been able to prove themselves as more than just a novelty by having put out a string of well-received albums.
  • Jazz pianist Joey Alexander gained attention even outside the usual jazz circles for being a child prodigy, who released his first album when he was 11 years old. He has the chops to live up to the hype, and he's played with big names in jazz like Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra.
  • Much of the hype surrounding Billy Gilman when the then-11-year-old country singer from Rhode Island charted "One Voice" in 2000 was about the fact that he was the youngest male artist to score a country hit. That novelty, combined with the song's narm, wore off fast, and Gilman faded from view until a post-pubescent run on The Voice
  • If the country band Ricochet is remembered for anything other than their only remembered song "Daddy's Money", it's for the fact that they were not only the first country artist ever to chart a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner", but also that said rendition was one of only a very small number of a cappella songs to enter the country charts (a feat they later repeated with a rendition of "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" that garnered some seasonal airplay).
  • The Traveling Wilburys were a highly successful band with a very devoted following, but most of their fame comes from the fact that they're generally considered the most ambitious supergroup collaboration in history. To whit: George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne (of Electric Light Orchestra) were all members. Even to people who've never heard their music, the simple fact that those five musicians performed in a band together is pretty impressive.
    • Supergroups in general flirt with this, given that much of the hype (initially at least) comes from the identity of the members rather than the songs they record.
  • "Hvem Stjal Spenolen?" is a single by obscure Norwegian rapper Mr. Pimp-Lotion, featuring singer Didrik Solli-Tangen and World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen as guest artists. If you read the YouTube comments — most of which aren't even in Norwegian — it's clear that most of the listeners are only there to hear Carlsen rap.
  • Rappers whose main draw are their Motor Mouth style of spitting, known as "chopping", are increasingly being seen as Dancing Bears. Their detractors claim that the technique places style over substance, as it's the speed of the rapping, not the (often lackluster) content, that's meant to impress the listener.
  • The song "Soulless" by ExileLord just sounds like someone rapidly mashing keys on a synthesizer for 6 minutes. The only reason anyone cares about this song is that it's extremely difficult to play when it's added to Guitar Heronote  via Game Mod, which appeals massively to Challenge Gamers. The song later got sequels that try harder to sound like actual music, but their difficulty is still the sole reason anyone cares about them.

  • A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, better known to those who've read it as "Brian May's doctoral thesis".

In general, as pinball machines were originally marketed to operators, who would put them out in public for people to play, advertising for them tended to be more about unique gimmicks and other novelties than about the gameplay itself, as operators were not necessarily players and thus were more likely persuaded on gimmicks and novelties than how good the game actually played. Rather than talk about, say, The Addams Family's intricate depth, its challenging yet fair difficulty, or its scoring oriented around Competitive Balance, it was easier to convince operators to buy the game because Thing comes out of a box and grabs the ball! Or hidden magnets swing the ball around in unpredictable directions!
  • Black Hole was the first machine to popularize multi-level playfields—in this case, a smaller one beneath the main one, seen through a window. The artwork on the backglass up top also has a large spinning mirrored disk, creating a Droste Image of a rampaging black hole.
  • Black Knight had a related concept: The split-level playfield, where the top half is elevated compared to the bottom half. This proved popular enough to inspire Follow the Leader for its competitors, at least for a brief while. Its sequel, Black Knight 2000, had the same gimmick, only now it was advertised to have a full-length song with vocals playing in the background.
  • Centigrade 37 integrated a thermometer into the artwork whose mercury would rise as the game is played. The game itself is well-liked up to the present, but the thermometer was such a big part of the artwork that it would've been the first thing most people would see, especially to onlookers watching it rise as someone plays it.
  • Firepower proudly proclaimed that it had "Multiball" (a mode in which 2 or more balls are in play at a time) all over it: On its logo, on the artwork, on the sides of the machine, and all over its marketing, enough that Williams Electronics trademarked the word.
  • High Roller Casino was shown off in its marketing for its tri-color LED miniature display that could show scrolling messages and slot machine reel animations,note  which itself was placed above a short ramp that would dunk the ball into a model of a slot machine, whose arm would descend whenever it's activated. In addition, there was a spinning roulette wheel that the ball could fall into and a set of drop targets with stand-up targets behind them that would generate poker hands based on the order they're hit.
  • Jurassic Park (Data East) was shown off and remembered for two things: The Raptor Kick, in which a ball going up a dead-end path would then be shot back to the flippers by a solenoid at a very fast speed; and a Tyrannosaurus rex head that would bend down and swallow the ball. The former gimmick actually worked, however, in that the phrase "Raptor Kick" would from then on become the fan term for any time this assembly reappeared in a pinball machine. It helped that players genuinely liked the gameplay as a whole. The T. Rex eating the ball, on the other hand, was prone to mechanical problems and thus rarely imitated.
  • Orbitor 1's appeal is solely that its playfield is not entirely flat, but is instead warped transparent plastic, causing the ball to travel unusual paths. Sometimes, a point would be made that the machine was designed by a NASA astrophysicist. Aside from that, the playfield itself was pretty empty, making the games incredibly boring.
  • The draw of Predator was almost solely in the fact that it was being made and manufactured by a company other than Stern, which at that point was the only manufacturer of pinball machines larger than a garage and the only one big enough to secure licensed properties. This company, Skit-B, was seen among pinball fans largely as a fresh and young competitor for the then-stagnent Stern, and the fans paid relatively little attention to the game itself compared to it being a Stern alternative. Things fell apart for this project later onnote , but up to this point, this was what the project was known for.
  • The main draw of Space Shuttle, whenever it would appear in arcades and other public places, was an accurate scale model of a NASA shuttle placed onto the playfield. Straightforward as it was, this actually worked incredibly well: As such levels of detail could not be replicated in video games at the time, Space Shuttle proved to be very popular (for pinball), getting pinball out of the slump it had in the mid-80's. It worked so well, it became standard for pinball machines released afterwards to have a model of something on the playfield somewhere.
  • The pinball machine for Starship Troopers focused on two easily noticeable aspects: A pretty large model of a Brain Bug that would normally stay hidden but would pop up for you to hit with the ball during certain times; and a third flipper, smaller than the other two and colored red, controlled by a third button on the side of the machine.
  • TRON: Legacy, prior to its release, was frequently boasted to have original music by Daft Punk in the game, more so than anything about how the game actually played.
  • The flyers distributed to operators for The Twilight Zone had a large part dedicated to the gumball machine in the corner: This one is filled with pinballs, and when you deposit a ball behind it, the handle on the gumball machine would turn on its own and provide you with a replacement ball.
  • TX-Sector proudly advertised its so-called "teleporting balls": Two pinballs were kept in reserve at various spots, ready to be released under certain conditions, creating the illusion that a single ball teleported elsewhere.
  • Arguably, the large monitor in The Wizard of Oz is this. Though downplayed in the promotional materials for this machine, it was the first mass-produced pinball machine to have a full-size flat-screen monitor embedded in it, which is a lot more colorful, bigger, brighter, and most importantly, a lot more modern-looking than the single-color dot-matrix displays Jersey Jack Pinball's competitors were using at the time, and thus draws a lot of attention from onlookers and passers-by. Operators with a Wizard of Oz machine and no other monitor-based pinball machines claim that Oz brings in at least several times as many players as their dot-matrix display or older machines. Although The Wizard of Oz is a solid game in its own right, only time will tell if this novelty continues to last as more machines are released with monitors like this one.
  • Xenon's gimmick was that it was the first large-scale release of a pinball machine to have pre-recorded voice clips. As it was released in 1980, right when computer technology became small enough to fit in a pinball machine, it took a lot of work to produce the equipment to get the several seconds' worth of those recordings. The designers and engineers sure as heck weren't going to let that go by unnoticed.
    • In turn, the marketing for Gorgar was completely about how the various voice clips for the titular creature could be spliced together to form other phrases.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppets focused on and was marketed almost entirely on the basis of "Holy shit, the Muppets are back!"
  • Thunderbolt Fantasy got the attention of the anime fandom due to its association with Gen Urobuchi. Puppet shows are not typical content for anime streaming sites, to say the least, so the medium made up most of the message; any discussion of it centers on the strangeness of watching Taiwanese puppet theatre scripted by a famous anime writer.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The third-party D&D adventure The World's Largest Dungeon puts its Dancing Bear right in the title. Not only is it the largest published dungeon, it also features almost every monster in the Open Game License, and is one of the most expensive RPG sourcebooks ever sold. The actual contents of the dungeon are mostly considered to be horribly edited, unbalanced, and severely padded.
  • The wargame Campaign for North Africa is pretty much primarily known for how long it takes to play, being almost impossible to complete as published in anything less than several years, as well as being ridiculously heavy on bookkeeping and simulationism (down to featuring mechanics for how quickly liquid supplies evaporate in the desert). The game designers jokingly told someone that if they thought there was something wrong with the game, they should try to play it again to completion and see if the problem was still happening.

  • Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is more famous for its troubled production than anything else. This aside, the technical aspects - including a spectacular aerial battle above the audience - are the main reasons to see the show.
  • The musical In Transit, about a group of strangers taking the subway in New York City, hyped up the fact it was entirely A Cappella, using the voices of its ten-member ensemble to fill out its score. Its Off-Broadway and Broadway runs were both fairly short, and it isn't remembered much beyond that fact.

    Video Games 
  • Alpha Waves is pretty much known only for the fact that it was a 3D platformer made in the 16-bit era.
  • Amped 3 is a fairly obscure, so-so snowboarding game which managed to bomb significantly despite being a launch Xbox 360 game. However, if people know of it, they likely remember it for the completely batshit cutscenes, which featured, among other things, constant Art Shift between deliberately bad CGI, Animesque, hand puppets, handdrawn on paper, scrapbook cutouts, 8-bit Retraux, among about a dozen other styles, and for a completely insane plot that involved Mind Control, a parody of Electronic Arts, a main character being recruited into a Boy Band, russian agents, and ending with a comet colliding with Earth and causing an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. This is despite the fact that the first two games were down-to-earth, realistic, and took themselves pretty seriously.
  • At first, Borderlands was only really notable for the "87 Bazillion" randomly-generated guns. The sequels went a good bit beyond that.
  • Brutal Mario in general. With the gimmick being lots and lots of ASM that stretches the engine to its limits. It's quite a common gimmick for Mario hacks in general, with other examples of being Mario Fantasy, Super Mario LD and the Ore World series, which also have wildly varying quality of level design.
  • Cave Story is a solid game in any context and did well critically, but its biggest claim to fame is that everything in the original version, from the game engine to the levels, graphics, animations, music, story, weapons, enemies, physics, etc, was all made by one person in his spare time. Taking into account the size, quality, and initial release date of the game, this was highly notable.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day's Dancing Bear is loads of swearing, graphic violence, sexual references, Toilet Humour, Black Comedy, and pop culture references, which contrast harshly with the game's cute and cartoony aesthetics. The "mature" content was added after a kid-friendly prototype version was criticized for being too similar to Rare's previous Banjo-Kazooie. The game became a beloved Cult Classic, although it still sold poorly due to releasing on the Nintendo 64 when the next generation of consoles was becoming available.
  • The Crew has its main draw in the fact the entire U.S.A. (aside from Alaska and Hawaii, for obvious reasons) is the map, and it's an open world. As Ross Scott remarks, it's difficult to rate a game like that because even if it's unremarkable or even mediocre in the rest (with The Crew generally falling under "okay" for most things from physics to graphics and story, with a couple glaring problems), being able to drive across the entirety of the US is such a huge thing by itself that isn't really part of the usual rating process that it's pretty much impossible to really give it a fair score.
  • CROSS×BEATS is mainly known for being the first game that Naoki Maeda of DanceDanceRevolution fame worked on since leaving Konami.
  • Opinions on Crysis as an overall product vary, but one thing most can agree on is that it's an absolutely gorgeous-looking game for its time, with even the best machines on the consumer market at the time having trouble running the game at maximum settings. For a while, Crysis served as the benchmark for people trying to build dream PCs.
  • Cuphead is primarily known for the fact that the entire game is hand drawn in the style of a thirties cartoon. This aspect alone made it more anticipated than many AAA games at the time, though a lot of people also dryly noted that it could easily suck and would still be a must have. Fortunately the game ended up being praised for its gameplay as well as its art.
  • Daikatana is a bit of an absurdity. The only reason it sold any copies at all is because it had John Romero's name on it, and was from Ion Storm — and because of the ridiculous marketing by John Romero featuring John Romero as John Romero. The game itself was and is, as many reviewers at the time noted, a buggy, broken mess. Today, conversely, it is largely remembered because of the resulting trainwreck.
  • The obscure arcade game Daioh advertised that and is mostly known to genre enthusiasts because it's a vertical Shoot 'em Up whose export version peliculiarly uses a 6-buttons Street Fighter-esque control layout in a genre where most games rarely feature more than 3 action buttons.
  • When Darius was first released, its main draw was the three-screen monitor setup. Dariusburst followed this up with a 32:9 setup for its arcade cabinet, along with a Chronicle mode that has over 3000 stages, with progression in the mode shared between everyone playing on a given cabinet.
  • Disney Infinity is mostly notable for two things. It has Disney characters and sets you buy as figures, and it's a toy box you can make other games in.
  • Duke Nukem Forever, if only for the fact that it spent over twelve years in development and won numerous awards for its repeated delays, even outliving the game's own developers after they were axed by their publishers. At this point, just the fact that this game exists and can actually be played is reason enough for many to buy it (Official Xbox Magazine's review only listed "a chance to own a piece of gaming history" for the game's positives, so it can be said that some critics think it's the only reason to buy it).
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail was designed, programmed, and illustrated almost entirely by Dean Dodrill, with only voice-acting and music coming from other people.
  • The budget fighting game Fight of Gods probably would have been an obscure footnote were it not for the fact that one of the playable characters is none other than Jesus Christ, which almost instantly catapulted it to internet infamy.
  • There's this Flappy Bird clone called Tappy Chicken, which, let's face it, nobody would play if it weren't for the fact that it's a Tech Demo Game for the mobile app applications of the Unreal Engine.
  • Hitman 3 was the subject of a few interviews about how it managed to cut down on the filesize of the game by over 65% at launch by using the LZ4 compression algorithmnote . Not only is Hitman 3 the final entry, and smallest entry in terms of filesize, in their World of Assassination Trilogy, but it also contains all the content from Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2, DLC and all!, meaning the prior two games are effectively redundant to keep around, and instead of being in excess of 200GB as many feared before launch, the game was 55GB!, which was just astounding. Not only that, but previous owners of the two games get those DLC's for free!
  • I=MGCM is widely known for their extremely expensive budget, and the not only vivid but surprisingly dark (but still Lighter and Softer than the infamous Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Magical Girl Raising Project and Ryukishi07's works in comparison, at least in the regular version) Magical Girl Warrior game which uses The Multiverse as the game setting. Besides that, there's an official NSFW version of it, which is called I=MGCM DX.
  • Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted would have been treated as just another generic fantasy MMORPG... if it wasn't for the fact that it is practically the only MMORPG that has dragons as a playable race which became the only thing people know about the game. The fact that there isn't even a trope page already speaks volumes. Even the game's website has "Istaria is the best crafting MMOROPG and has playable Dragons!" as its title.
  • The Kingdom Hearts series is mainly known for its use of family-friendly Disney franchises in an Action RPG with heaps of anime plot that gets more convoluted with each entry and spiky-haired heroes that fight the forces of darkness with oversized keys. Whether one finds the concept to be Narm, the excecution to bring it to Narm Charm, or know hardly anything about the series, it's the one thing that comes to mind when most people mention it.
  • The First-Person Shooter .kkrieger is mostly known for only needing 97,280 bytes of disk space despite having Doom³-tier graphics.
  • L.A. Noire was hyped on its (at the time) revolutionary motion/facial capture technique, which literally digitized the faces of actors onto their virtual counterparts, along with an interrogation system that forced players to figure out subtle facial cues to determine whether a suspect was lying or not.
  • Lose/Lose is a Mac space shooter that permanently deletes a random file in your Home folder for every enemy you kill. The creator even admitted that the game was made as a funny little experiment and was surprised that people actually played and enjoyed it.
  • maimai is a pretty standard arcade rhythm game, but it's best known for its cabinet design, which looks like a washing machine.
  • Back in the 90s, Mortal Kombat was infamous due to its over-the-top violence, which led to re-evaluation of laws concerning violent content of video games and the creation of the ESRB in North America. This status wore off as games with even more graphic violence became more common and the critical reception of the franchise began to dip. With the Netherrealm Studios era beginning with the Soft Reboot in 2011, though, the gratuitous blood and gore have not only not gone away, but become a part of the series' identity that help differentiate it from other fighting games.
  • The MMORPG genre (at the very least until World of Warcraft). Just the idea of playing with hundreds or millions of other people simply by plugging in your modem made even the worst balanced exposure to the most annoyingly ill-behaved players tremendously appealing.
  • The NARC (2005) remake banked on controversy over its drug use mechanic to help sell games. Although it did get media attention, it didn't sell very well.
  • Nintendo:
    • Nintendo's very first video game was EVR Race and it isn't all that impressive from a gameplay perspective, being little more than a betting simulator. Player input consisted of nothing more than choosing a horse or car that one thought would come in first place, but it was notable anyway as the first video game to ever use Live Action Cutscenes, which was accomplished via the "Electronic Video Recording System", one of many experimental predecessors to the VHS tape.
    • M-rated Nintendo games. Nintendo is renowned for its family-friendly image, with their internal development studios never creating anything above a Teen rating. This doesn't stop them from occasionally funding and publishing M-rated exclusives from other studios though, which happens infrequently enough to catch people's attention whenever it happens. The biggest example of this is Geist, which thanks to its middling gameplay, is only remembered for being that Nintendo M-rated GameCube game that wasn't Eternal Darkness.
    • The Nintendo DS wasn't sold on how graphically impressive its games were for a handheld device, but on its touchscreen interface. While some mocked it, claiming that it would be crushed by Sony's Playstation Portable, it ended up being an overwhelming success thanks to said touchscreen being attractive to a "blue ocean" of consumers who were intimidated by traditonal control schemes, popularizing the Casual Video Game in the process. To this day, the Nintendo DS is the most successful piece of hardware Nintendo has ever released, leading to Nintendo deciding that all their future hardware needs some gimmick to catch the public eye. This has worked to their success (the Wii with its motion control and the Nintendo Switch with its "hybrid" format, both spawning imitators), deteriment (the Wii U with its tablet GamePad controller is their worst-selling console), and everything in between (the Nintendo 3DS with its glasses-free 3D effects was popular, but the gimmick was only regularly used by a small fraction of consumers, leading to a cheaper budget model that ditched the functionality completely).
  • Portal started off as this, being focused on puzzles that require thinking with non-Euclidean portals, and was first released in The Orange Box compilation alongside the heavyweights of Half-Life 2, its episodic sequels, and Team Fortress 2, seeming very small by comparison. However, its easy-to-grasp gameplay, darkly witty writing, and main villain proved that there was a lot more than just a simple gimmick, and it became the most acclaimed game out of The Orange Box, eventually getting a sequel.
  • The Red Faction franchise became notorious for its groundbreaking GeoMod technology and physics simulation, which allowed players to blow open walls or destroy environments (to a level not normally seen in previous games) if they couldn't get through a door or obstacle.
  • The N64 port of Resident Evil 2, while delivering a slightly blurry and washed out visual experience along with low quality audio, is nothing short of a miracle for the porting devs. They managed to take the originally 1.5GB (split across 2 discs) PS1 title and used all manner of technical and artistic tricks to cram the entire game into a tiny 64MB cartridge.
  • Sad Satan has strange and mildly eerie backstory behind it (involving a Let's Player being given it by a mysterious user of The Deep Web) and some versions of it are actively dangerous to play (due to containing illegal content like child pornography and/or viruses that will destroy your computer), but that's pretty much the only reason anybody knows about it, and certainly the only reason anyone tries to play it. The actual gameplay is just wandering around endless corridors with lots of jump scares.
  • Shenmue gained fame for being an early attempt at realism in video games, not unlike what Quantic Dream would do later with Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain. However, it's generally considered that Shenmue went too far with this to the point of frustration at being forced to endure menial jobs that you had to spend a realistic amount of time performing (hours, in fact) when the point of playing a game was to ESCAPE from reality. That's not to say the game didn't have an appeal of its own; the Wuxia-inspired setting and its fighting game-esque combat system with a steep skill ceiling are noted as its strong points. But ultimately its popularity is considered to come from the fact it was (and largely still is) a game unlike any other, for good or ill.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The original game was sold on and became popular for two aspects; One, it was a blistering fast game for its time, allegedly thanks to the brazenly marketed "Blast Processing" abilities of the Sega Genesis, and, to a lesser extent, for having a light streak of edge to it that was lacking from the more vanilla Super Mario World and Sega's own previous Mario wannabe, Alex Kidd, while still having a bit of lighthearted cartoon appeal lacking from Sega's other arcade ports and more mature games for their console.
    • A lot of the hype for Sonic Chronicles came simply from the strangely intriguing concept of a Sonic RPG done by BioWare. When the game came out, its gameplay was generally considered fairly lacking, but many recommended it anyways because the strong writing and sheer novelty made up for it
    • Sonic Mania did turn out to be a crowd pleaser, but mainly because it returned to form in a series that had been floundering under numerous poorly-received entries. The biggest thing about the game before release, however, was the fact that it was a Sonic game that SEGA did not develop. In fact, nobody at SEGA was developing the project, only overseeing it. Instead, the project was handled by a group of dedicated members of the Sonic community including fan beloved Chris White and beloved fan composer Tee Lopes. The fact that SEGA didn't develop it themselves is often cited as a reason the game even came out well, given it was released alongside Sonic Forces which is considered awful by some and the absolute worst Sonic game thus far by others... and SEGA did develop that one.
  • Many games and programs for the early Sinclair computers (especially the ZX80 and ZX81) fell into this category as programmers worked around their limitations.
    • 1K ZX Chess fits most of the rules and a computer-controlled player into an unexpanded Sinclair ZX81. The fact that it's missing castling, promotions and en passant and that the AI can only look one move ahead is beside the point- 1KB is a ludicrously small amount of memory. note  It's generally considered an incredible achievement, even if it's not likely to kick Garry Kasparov's backside.
    • Why is this version of Donkey Kong with blocky, monochrome, text-based graphics impressive? Because it shouldn't be possible at all. Sinclair's ZX80 (the predecessor to the better-known ZX81) would normally blank the display- however briefly- whenever it was doing any form of processing.note  This made games with any form of moving graphics intolerably flickery at best... unless you were very clever with your timing.
  • Skylanders is a fairly enjoyable series, however what makes it stand out (aside from being attached to the Spyro the Dragon franchise) is the toy gimmick. You have to purchase toys in order to play certain characters.
  • The never-officially-released Tattoo Assassins would be an utterly unremarkable Mortal Kombat clone, if not for one thing: the game has 2,196 distinct fatality animations. Consequently, the main reason to play the game is to try to see as many of them as you can.
  • The Tetris: The Grand Master series is known for two things: its instant-drop speeds and the "invisible Tetris" segment that the player gets if they did well enough in the main course of the game.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds started off as a fangame called My Little Pony: Fighting Is Magic before getting Screwed by the Lawyers and being reworked into an original IP with the help of Lauren Faust. While it's considered a decent game with a strong following among the Fighting Game Community, outside of the fandom it's known more for the apparent absurdity of the fact that "the My Little Pony fighting game" is a thing that exists in all seriousness than for any of the game's actual merits.

    Visual Novels 
  • School Days is notable and popular for two things; the fact that it's a rare example of a fully-animated VN (unlike most Visual Novels, which use mostly static images accompanied by text), and the infamously dark and violent bad endings where the characters go insane and/or get brutally murdered. That's pretty much all it's known for, however, as without those two qualities it's just your fairly average harem H-game. The creators of the anime adaptation were definitely aware of this, as it follows the darkest route of the game and arguably makes it even darker.

    Web Animation 
  • Lucas the Spider is popular less for the actual content (which mainly involves the titular character in various silly antics), and more because the creator succeeded in averting What Measure Is a Non-Cute? by making a realistic spider cute and appealing; which is probably how it ended up becoming a preschool show a few years later.
  • Kizuna AI would be a relatively typical Let's Player and YouTuber, if not for the fact that she's an unknown person, or group of people, who only appears in the form of a MikuMikuDance CGI model that claims to be a "super AI" rather than a human using motion-capture tools. Not only did Kizuna herself become popular enough to star in a tourism campaign and get an anime voice acting role, but she (and her imitators) came to create the entire Virtual Youtuber genre.
  • Fantasy Kaleidoscope is largely known for looking like a professional big-budget adaptation of the Touhou series, despite being entirely fanmade. The animation in its own right is rather good, but it's the fact that it's not an official installment of the series that tends to draw people to it.

    Web Comics 
  • Axe Cop is popular in large part because of the sheer novelty of a comic written by a 5-6 year old boy, albeit with art and interpretation by his 30 year old brother, a talented professional cartoonist.
  • The main gimmick of Dinosaur Comics is that almost all strips are identical, with only the occasional minor alteration.
  • Homestuck has a gimmick which it grew into - its use of Medium Awareness combined with the Infinite Canvas of a webcomic.
  • Many xkcd-comic-inspired Defictionalizations are only recognized because of their inspirational source. The "Tetris in hell" game, for example, is interesting entirely because someone actually bothered to make it even though it doesn't really add anything to the original joke.

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation has a decent number of entries that focus on a gimmick. SCP-2521 is probably the most popular, as the SCP itself is a pretty basic "spooky mysterious monster that abducts people"... but due to the SCP stealing written information about itself, the entire article is told through pictures and diagrams, with no text used at any point. Reportedly, it was inspired by a contest to create an SCP in under 237 words, to which the writer decided to create an SCP in zero.

    Web Videos 
  • The Black Mirror special Bandersnatch was the first successful adult Gamebook film, and it's more well known for its gimmick than anything in its story.
  • Twitch Plays Pokémon had the simple gimmick of a Twitch chat controlling a game of Pokémon Red by typing in various inputs. Anywhere from 50 thousand to 100 thousand people watched and participated in the original Pokémon Red stream, managing to complete the game in a little over 16 days. While the original Twitch channel would drop heavily in popularity after a year or so, streamers will still occasionally give direct control over whatever game they're playing to their audience — be it Pokémon, Mario Party, or Grand Theft Auto — with the added bonus of their reactions to whatever failures and successes occur.
    • Fish Plays Pokemon had over 21,000 people watching a fish move about a bowl to play Pokémon Red.
    • RNG Plays Pokemon, which was effectively just the Fish version, but much faster, and without the fish.
  • Blindfolded speedruns. Inevitably, these are slower than un-blindfolded ones, but are still popular for the novelty of watching someone try to beat a video game while unable to see anything, and for bizarre problems that can come up.

    Western Animation 
  • The reason how Clutch Cargo penetrated into pop culture as far as it did is solely because of its Trope Codifier status in using Synchro-Vox.note  The show The Higgins Boys and Gruber even claims that "If it weren't for the lips, it'd be a filmstrip!"
  • Fred Perry's Gold Digger: Time Raft OVA. Its poor acting, rudimentary animation, and extreme Schedule Slip are forgiven because Mr. Perry did everything (besides the voice acting). He wrote the script, created the music, and drew every single frame of this hour-long animated movie by himself.
  • Paperman is a really cute short but the main draw is the animation style and potential. It's an All-CGI Cartoon that looks like traditional animation. Disney has since used the same style in other shorts and there is much discussion when a full-length film using this animation technique will come out.
  • An In-Universe version occurs during the VeggieTales Christmas video, "The Star of Christmas." The protagonists are attempting to open a musical called "The Princess and the Plumber" on Christmas night in order to escape the fate of using their talents to sell dental wax. While some effort is made towards advertising it based on its merits as an actual play, Cavis Appethart repeatedly sells new actors and backers on it with the promise of using fancy, newly-invented electrical lights on the sets and costumes.
  • An actual dancing bear is used in this format in-universe on The Critic. Jay's show is falling in the ratings and the set is converted to a rustic cabin appearance, complete with stuffed bear. Except the hippies wouldn't accept a stuffed bear, so they just drugged him up. After it attacks Jay, it offers an apology by way of dancing a polka and moonwalk as he plays the concertina.
  • Killer Bean Forever, an entire 3D animated action movie starring talking coffee beans, animated solely by one person. Said person also happens to be a professional visual effects artist, and despite the laughable premise, the film has some actual genuinely good fight choreography.
  • Futurama:
    • In-Universe, Pamela Anderson appears As Herself and mentions starring in Baywatch: The Movie, the first film to be shot entirely in slow-motion.
    • Though "The Prisoner of Benda" is well-regarded by fans, the main reason it's remembered is for featuring an actual, functioning mathematical proof that was invented by the writers to solve its plot.
  • "Free Churro" is considered the most memorable episode of BoJack Horseman's season 5, with the most discussed aspect being that the entire 25 minutes is just one Will Arnett monologue, only consisting of one uninterrupted eulogy told by BoJack (plus the Cold Open flashback, which features Arnett as Butterscotch). The actual content of said monologue is deeply moving in its own right, but the format is what shot it to iconic status for most critics and fans.
  • ReBoot is either a straight example or a complete inversion, depending on one's point of view: It's the first ever All-CGI Cartoon to be an actual series, with a story arc and developed characters and everything else expected of a typical Saturday morning cartoon, where previous examples of the medium were self-contained and frequently rather abstract shorts that were more about showcasing the capabilities of the technology than anything else.
  • In-Universe in the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Chum Caverns". Plankton relocates his restaurant to a beautiful underground cave and becomes a massive success, with long lines of people waiting to get in the door. The gorgeous scenery proves to be the main attraction, as the enthralled customers freely admit that the food is still terrible even as they're marveling at the sights.

Alternative Title(s): Gimmick Attracts An Audience, Watch It For The Gimmick