Follow TV Tropes


Fake Balance

Go To

"As Thomas you can shoot more accurately, throw lassos, and climb ledges; and as Ray you can open the pause menu, restart the mission, and choose Thomas instead, you fucking idiot! Ray takes less damage, but health regenerates so it hardly matters anyway, and he can dual wield pistols, which means twice as many weapons you have to stop and reload every fifteen nanoseconds."

Fake Balance is what happens when a game or an aspect of a game seems balanced on paper, but actual playing reveals major problems that were not anticipated by the designers. This is a reason why a game can have Character Tiers despite being balanced in theory.

For clarification, Fake Balance is caused when the game designer intends to balance the game, but fails to do so. Intentionally putting in Game-Breaker or joke characters does not count, since in that case the designer has no intention of balancing the game in the first place.

There are several different cases of Fake Balance:

  • An underestimated/overestimated ability: A major cause of Fake Balance in fighting games is when the game designers inaccurately gauge an ability's usefulness relative to the rest of the game. Underestimation may cause a character's weakness to be ignored; for example, a 99% evasion rate could make a Fragile Speedster functionally just as Nigh-Invulnerable as a Stone Wall, but also faster to get into an attack position and without the penalty to offense. Overestimating an ability may cause a character to become an unintentional Joke Character, like when an attack move is only noticed for the high amount of damage it can do in one hit, while ignoring that it can be easily dodged.
  • Advertisement:
  • Skill-based advantage: Something that becomes unbalanced only in the hands of a skilled player. Other players, especially those with a physical disability, can effectively be prevented from winning in a competitive environment; being limited to Skill Gate Characters or by inferior equipment that lies behind a skill-based minigame. Worse yet, some linear games can become unwinnable or limited to a bad ending, due to the skill requirement being set too high. While the whole point of a high-skill character is to reward people who put in the time to learn them, they should still have meaningful weaknesses beyond the inherent difficulty of execution in order to not be effectively unbeatable.
  • Unbalanced move-set: If a character has a move set with a few overly powerful moves, the counterbalance to this may be to have several moves be near-useless. But the existence of bad moves does nothing to reduce the effectiveness of the good ones. A skilled player is likely to exploit the good moves while ignoring the useless ones, often taking away from the variety of the game.
  • Advertisement:
  • Luck-based balance: Luck-based gameplay easily falls into Fake Balance because of issues with the Random Number God, such that a match between two skilled players is decided by luck, rather than skill, so an unskilled player can beat a skilled one (except in movies where The Magic Poker Equation applies). This can often apply to Trading Card Games, where the randomness of draws theoretically balances the match, but skilled players can stack their decks to limit this factor.
  • Rarity based balance: Found in certain Trading Card Games formats, where rare cards are often much more powerful than common cards. This form of balance is based on the notion that everyone has an equal chance of getting the game-winning cards, and thus an equal chance of winning. However, this can result in having matches decided by who was luckier rather than who was more skilled, so it can be considered a form of luck-based balance in certain game formats.
  • Situational advantage: When a character/deck (A) has an almost unwinnable advantage over certain type of character/deck (B), but is too weak against other characters/decks (C). On the statistic sheet, A might have a balanced winrate, B might have a below average winrate and C might have an above average winrate. But Deck A isn't balanced and C might not be better than B. This results in a practice known as "counter-picking", where a player makes their choice based on the other player's choice. This naturally leads to all players hiding their choices and making the game feel like an elaborate version of Rock–Paper–Scissors played before instead of whatever actual gameplay was intended, determining the outcome of the game before it starts.
  • Fragile advantage: These characters have over-the-top strengths when they're going strong, but if they're knocked off balance or prevented from gaining an advantage to begin with, their weaknesses come into play big time. The reason why some of these characters can be considered "balanced" is because humans inevitably make mistakes. This is most common in racing games, where players or AI can make a mistake that causes them to lose, no matter how fast their vehicle. It's also extremely common in fighting games, as most rushdown characters or heavy zoners are fragile, have poor or nonexistent defensive options, and struggle to regain momentum once they've lost it.
  • Balance-wrecking items: Here, a good job is done of balancing characters, but this work is then undone by having items that negate some weaknesses but not others. For example, a character might be physically weak but have a special talent; if every shop on the planet sells strength-boosting trinkets, that weakness isn't going to be much of a handicap for long. This is especially common as a result of Power Creep, when the original game's items were balanced, but the new ones aren't.
  • Counterplay-based balance: An item or character is ridiculously overpowering, but falls apart if you use a certain item, character, or strategy, but this can be undone with another item/character/strategy, and so on and on until you end up with a multiplicity of layers of counterplay. The rationale here is that these powerful characters can be negated by skilled people capable of exploiting their weaknesses. This also has the side effect of creating Skill Gate Characters that are very strong against unskilled players, but weak against skilled players.
  • Perfect imbalance: A gameplay "balancing" technique used in long-running multiplayer games that can be best described as having a small but intentional imbalance carefully calculated so that the community will favor one particular strategy, but not too extreme so as to negate everything else. Then, on the next patch, the developer tilts the balance towards another different kind of strategy. The result is an always-changing metagame that prevents the game from getting old and also prevents the formation of Complacent Gaming Syndrome. More info in this video from Extra Credits. Unfortunately, on top of the required investment, this can have the problem that while the metagame isn't ever fixed, it's also never truly balanced, and can result in the loss of enjoyable metas for bad ones.
  • Balance through imbalance: If everything is either ridiculously broken or woefully underpowered, there may not be any real power difference, but the gameplay suffers. If everything is overpowered, it becomes a twitch-fest and landslide victories are the norm; the only real counterplay is getting in the first hit. If everything is underpowered, it becomes a boring and frustrating experience with no sense of reward.
  • Balance through Min-Maxing: Badly-designed or poorly-aged characters and items are often extremely difficult to properly balance without significant overhauls or complete redos because they simply do not fit in the context of the game. A cheap and easy fix (and one that is a dead giveaway for devs who don't know what the hell to do with the character or item) is to bloat or gut its numbers. This seldom works because the issues are generally structural, not numerical, and it usually results in a Tier-Induced Scrappy because the character or item is overtuned (if good) or completely useless (if bad).

STOP! Before proceeding, please remember that Tropes Are Not Bad. Games are designed to reward those who take the time and effort to study them. A player who has more expertise at a game should win more, because he or she knows the game's loopholes and how to exploit them. This trope only comes into play when a particular strategy, skillset, or loophole becomes dominant over a game which, purportedly, contains nothing so ultra-powerful. One surefire sign of an extreme Fake Balance failure is therefore when only a tiny fraction of a game's strategies or options are considered viable in competitive play.

Consider also that skill levels of players vary, and simply adding an example because you feel it is “cheap” is missing the point, not to mention a great way to start an Edit War. For the types of players likely to do this, see Scrub, Munchkin, Complacent Gaming Syndrome, and "Stop Having Fun" Guys. May be caused by a Power Creep. Not to be confused with fake balance in news coverage.

    open/close all folders 

Video-Game Examples:

    4X Games 
  • In Master of Orion 2, every spaceship had a finite amount of room for weapons and other systems, and every race was limited to -10 "picks" in negative attributes and 20 "picks" worth of positive attributes. Naturally, nothing whatsoever cost anywhere near what it should, so everyone played with Unification/Tolerant/Repulsive races and crammed as many Plasma Cannons onto their ships as possible.
    • Even more so in Master of Orion 3, which removed the cap on negative and positive attribute points. For some reason different species were given different amounts of points to start with, so even though a valid build would appear to have a total of zero, it could be much more or less powerful depending on which species was used for the original template. This was seriously exacerbated by having a whole load of attributes hidden from the player, so even apparently identical builds could end up being wildly different once play started.
  • A fan wrote an entire essay/rant on this trope in regards to X3: Reunion. In theory the ships in the game have two axes of balance (Faction Calculus and ship classes) and are pretty well designed. In practice, Artificial Stupidity, the Schizophrenic Difficulty of in-sector versus out-of-sector combat, and the lack of a good fleet command interface put the balance into a blender.
  • Civilization:
    • Civilization V features a whole lot of Overestimated or Underestimated Ability. Babylon and Korea, for example, are considered to be some of the most broken civs, because their "specialization" is a Science Victory. Problem is, the way you get a Science Victory is by researching a lot of technologies, and technologies tend to be good for just about anything, not just a Science Victory. This results in a science-focused civ being functionally a Master of All, able to answer the horse archers of the militarized Mongolia with tanks, or the many arts of the culturally-focused Brazil with radio broadcast and the Internet. Conversely, you have the Byzantine Empire, considered to be one of the worst civs, because it has the unique advantage of a religion that it can choose two beliefs for. The problem is that the religion game is mostly a race of who can found one first and pick the best beliefs, and Byzantine doesn't get any buffs to that, so it ends up being late to the party compared to better Faith-producers like Ethiopia and the Celts - meaning that it will get its two selections from the table scraps. Shamus Young joked on this.
    "Egypt gets to build wonders 20% faster (!) and Songhai gets three times as much gold from Barbarians. The former is a powerful advantage that lets you deny crucial wonders to all other players in the game. The latter triples a really trivial amount of gold that ceases to be relevant about halfway through the game. America's advantage is that their units get to see one extra space into the fog of war. Which means they'll be able to see Egypt coming to kill them after Egypt gets tired of building all the wonders."
    • A common problem is the issue of some civs having strong abilities in the early game, while others are strong in the mid or late game. The idea is that the early-gamers are good because they get to take the lead quickly, while the late-gamers are good because they get to blossom when victory methods start becoming feasible and the early-gamers have had their advantages obsolete, with the mid-gamers in between. But by the nature of the 4X genre, once someone's in the lead, they have enough advantages to building and researching that they'll stay in the lead; lacking their special bonuses doesn't make them bad, just average. Basically, the gap's just gonna keep widening and widening, and the late-gamer advantages come way too late to actually mean anything, since by that point the late-gamers have fallen so far behind that it's a consolation prize, if they haven't been flat-out conquered. Some games include "catchup" mechanics where heavily advanced or widespread empires tend to have a lot of drawbacks while less advanced ones get advantages or shortcuts against them, but in cases like VI, where those mechanics aren't as important, pretty much the entire top-tier list is full of civs like Sumeria, Scythia, and Nubia, which all bloom early.
    • Luck-based balance comes in with the fact that maps are randomly generated, coupled with the situational advantages of many civs. Sometimes, you start surrounded by valuable salt and strategic resources with a helpful city-state in walking distance, and other times, your military civ ends up on an isolated island covered in tundra with nothing to conquer. Spain in V is especially problematic, as it receives a doubled (already considerable) bonus when it stumbles onto a randomly-placed Natural Wonder, meaning finding one will pretty much turn the game into a cakewalk for Spain, but not finding one leaves them with an uphill battle. Fans often try to solve this problem by playing on maps that remove some of the randomness (such as a "Pangaea" map, where everyone starts on the same continent), but that has its own problems, as some civs rely on those elements to do their job (what's the point of a naval-focused civ if you never really have to sail anywhere?).
    • The old-fashioned Spaceship/Scientific Victory is a pretty classic example of fragile advantage. Reaching it essentially requires you to be in what would be a game-winning state for any victory condition - end of the tech tree, lots of resources to burn, nobody else is in a position to win by another method before you finish. You don't truly specialize in it until very late in the game, meaning that civs meant for scientific victories tend to be so passive as to be boring, or completely overpowered as their specialization amounts to "winning."
    • A huge problem with the design of Civ V that leads to many complaints about Artificial Stupidity is that the developers overestimated the value of melee units. Melee Units typically can punch through Ranged Units like tissue paper, and are the only units able to take control of a city or take over a barbarian encampment in the same action as their attack. Melee units tend to get most of the bonuses from the Honor Cultural tree. In exchange, Ranged Units can not only attacks units 2-3 squares away, but also attack without worrying about immediately taking damage in return. This sounds like it's balanced on paper, or possibly in melee's favor. In practice, with the exception of barbarians, most combat will take place near cities (defending them or trying to take them), and melee units are near useless as a defender and as offense will take significant damage throwing themselves against the city walls, and that's just even trying to get into position as it gets very crowded near a city. No one told the AI this, so many times it will declare war against you because it has a lot more military power, not realizing that all of those melee units will shortly be dead trying to attack your city.
  • The Zann Consortium in Star Wars: Empire at War: Force of Corruption is universally agreed to be overpowered: their units are straight-up better than their Rebel and Imperial equivalents in most cases and they have a massive set of advantages in Galactic Conquest mode, most notably "corruption" which gives them a ton of annoying advantages while being expensive and cumbersome to remove for opposite players. The justification given was that this would be balanced out by the Consortium's units costing more to purchase; however, not only are the Consortium units not that much more expensive than the other two factions, the Consortium can purchase the best units of the other two factions in Galactic Conquest at little extra cost and they can build a "Palace" unit on every planet that massively boosts the income it brings, far more than the equivalent structure for the other two factions, making the extra cost - if not money in itself - a non-issue.

    Fighting Games 
  • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger suffers slightly from this. Nu-13 is meant to be balanced by low health. But her projectile combos and teleport moves made it nigh-impossible for some characters to land even a single hit, making her health irrelevant. Come the sequel, her projectiles can't combo, and her teleport is gone.
  • Many Street Fighter games have balance issues where certain matchups are unfairly difficult. In the earliest games certain characters lacked an effective method for dealing with projectiles, so they'd end up pinned down by fireball traps. Combo-oriented games like X-Men vs. Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom had infinite combos for every character.
    • "Old" Sagat in Super Street Fighter II Turbo is a classic example of Unbalanced Skillset: the "Old" characters in general lack their newly-granted super moves, in exchange for having some other attributes buffed to play more like they did in the prior game. In Sagat's case, he traded his super for reduced recovery time on his projectiles—and in the process, created a bit of a monster. He didn't need super moves when he could just spam Tiger Shot all day long; no character could out-spam him at range, so the only way to approach him was to jump at him, putting the attacker at risk of being hit by a Tiger Uppercut. While there was counterplay to Tiger Shot spam, it wasn't something that every character could do easily, which led to some of the most lopsided matchups in the whole roster. Consequently, Old Sagat is probably the most famous example of a "soft" ban: he's not even close to Akuma's brokenness, but tournament players agree that if he were legal, then about half the cast would suddenly be nonviable.
  • Super Smash Bros. took a fairly simple approach to balance. In general, most characters can fit into one of three groups: Fast, but light and weak; strong and heavy, but slow; and "balanced" characters who are somewhere in between. This sounds good in theory - slower characters don't have to hit as much to KO you, and are more resistant to being KO'd themselves - the problem is that fast characters generally have a much higher combo ability, allowing them to easily turn one weak hit into several, ultimately dealing more damage than the few, powerful hits that heavyweights dish out. Additionally, heavyweights themselves are extremely susceptible to combos, as their weight works against them by keeping them in range of their attacker, and they are usually large in stature as well, making them that much easier to hit. The heavyweights have effective Herd Hitting Attacks that can be unleashed while other players are distracted with each other, but this is no help in 1v1 matches, which are the standard for competitive play. This has ultimately led to complex Character Tiers appearing (despite claims that "tires don exits") and the Meta Game being stormed by fast characters like Fox and Falco, though with a few exceptions such as Jigglypuff and Peach. The imbalance between slow and fast becomes even more evident when one goes outside the Abridged Arena Array, ironically. Mighty Glacier characters tend to have virtually-unwinnable matchups against Fragile Speedster characters on maps like Hyrule Temple, not to mention they're not as good at grabbing items or avoiding hazards.
    • In the fourth game, Little Mac seems to fall under "unbalanced skillset". Mac is a brutal Lightning Bruiser on the ground, with several of his attacks making him Immune to Flinching and he even has an instant-KO attack. To balance this, he's absolutely abysmal in the air. The problem is air game isn't all that relevant on the Final Destination forms of stages, and a single long platform is the perfect setup for his ground game, resulting in him being by far the most used character in For Glory mode online.
      • And then when the meta developed and the air game became much more important, followed by players realizing how awful Mac's recovery was, he immediately became somewhat of a joke character, as players in FG would regularly just throw him off and use a single follow-up attack to take his first stock. Similarly, picking Little Mac in any sort of 4 stock competitive setting results in a quick loss amidst a stream of tears. Especially now that Ryu is out, who is widely considered 'better Mac with air game'.
      • Little Mac's abysmal air game is one of the biggest reasons he's considered a bad character, but there are other factors that affect him just as badly. Mac is also Cripplingly Overspecialized as a Close-Range Combatant. He has no projectiles, disjointed attacks, or any attack with good range, really, so he has no way to safely deal damage or pressure his opponents at a safe distance. While his out-of-shield options are decent, that only covers the defensive part of his neutral game, so he is forced to play aggressively against anyone who can outrange him. Also, he has a mediocre grab game, so he lacks a good way to punish shielded opponents. His only saving grace is his fast ground speed, so he is forced to depend on bait-and-punish tactics heavily. Little Mac has to deal with two fronts of severe weaknesses, which results in even more losing matchups for him. If his moveset at least covered the range part, he might have actually been a decent character.
    • The Pokémon Trainer's team in Brawl is designed to duplicate his home franchise's Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors, with Charizard taking more knockback from water-based moves, Squirtle from grass-based moves, and Ivysaur from fire-based moves (while taking less from grass, fire, and water, respectively). The problem is that outside of those three (and Kirby), only one character in Brawl (Mario) uses even a single water-based move, Ivysaur itself is the only character with grass-based moves, and fire-based moves are plentiful, with several being powerful enough to KO. The sum of this is that outside of a Mirror Match, the mechanic only serves to make Ivysaur even worse.

    First-Person Shooters 
  • Many FPS games such as Call of Duty have the problem of similar but grossly unbalanced weapon sets. At a medium range, nothing beats assault rifles and marksman weapons; likewise, extremely short-ranged weapons like submachine guns and shotguns are next to useless outside of room to room fighting. This has the added effect of making some weapon types (and, occasionally, some specific weapons within that type) shift between being Game Breakers and completely useless depending on whether the maps that ship with the game favor close-range or long-range combat.
    • Additionally, in Modern Warfare, the imbalance grows as a player's multiplayer level increases, since levels grant better attachments and perks to already powerful weapons - at least in theory. In practice, weapons legitimately meant to be end-game superguns are often beaten by early- to mid-game weapons that weren't properly playtested. Not at all helped that the last gun unlocked is always the AK-47 or its equivalent in the game, solely from its real-world infamy and a deliberate effort to curtail overuse of it, rather than any advantages over other weapons - it was the first assault rifle in CoD4, after all.
      • The Modern Warfare games largely have this problem with automatic weapons, which are ostensibly balanced due to increased recoil. However, since most maps are rather small, such guns are mostly capable of killing any player before the recoil becomes severe, and a few don't even have enough recoil to screw with the player's aim, skilled players can dominate most maps with their automatic weapons alone. If ammo is a concern, they can simply pick up another one or use the Bandolier/Scavenger perk to start with or grab more.
      • Not to mention the grenade launchers, which are supposed to be balanced due to limited ammunition (the player spawns with two grenades, which cannot be replenished normally). However, each grenade is essentially worth at least one free kill, and when you run out of grenade ammunition, you can simply switch back to your assault rifle. To make matters worse, in Modern Warfare 2 there were methods to get more than two rifle grenades.
      • This was fixed for the Black Ops series by adding the flak jacket perk making grenades next to useless.
      • The perks have this problem too. The ones that specifically enhanced your ability for direct shootouts were much more usable than the others since... that's what the multiplayer consists of in general. While specific combinations of them could be more useful than the direct ones alone, it didn't stop those ones being the perks most chosen.
      • The Double Tap perk. The Stopping Power perk increased the damage of bullet by 40%, generally making bullets take one bullet less to kill. Double Tap made weapons fire faster. On slow-firing weapons, Double Tap allows you to fire again much quicker. On semi-automatic weapons that are only limited by a fire-rate cap that's usually already higher than the automatic rates of full-auto weapons, Double Tap pretty much does nothing. For automatic weapons that do 30 damage on average, they are equal in killing speed. On automatic weapons that do more, Stopping Power kills a bit faster. However, increasing the fire rate allows increased recoil and the chance of wasting shots on automatic weapons. Needless to say, with the popularity of fast-firing automatics, Double Tap was rarely used. Like the issue with explosives above, this was fixed in later games, in part by removing Stopping Power entirely, and in part by replacing the Double Tap perk with an attachment that had the same effect.
    • Also, the killstreak/scorestreak system often times gives the winning team a much bigger advantage. Once one team starts getting more kills, they get more killstreaks, which help them get more kills, which help them get more killstreaks, and it just snowballs from there. There are games where entire teams are simply shut down because they're overwhelmed by the opposing team's killstreak support. And let's not get started with the Tactical Nuke killstreak in Modern Warfare 2. Most games since MW2 have tried to keep things more fair by switching the system so kills made with killstreak rewards either didn't count towards the next killstreak, or only gave a fourth of the points and did not have a game-breaking super-streak like the Nuke.note 
    • Call of Duty 2 and World at War both suffer from brutal gaps in weapon effectiveness, since they're set during the second World War. Each country's weapon set includes bolt-action rifles, semi-automatic carbines, and fully automatic submachine guns. Both games end up favoring one weapon type completely. In 2, the bolt-actions reign supreme, because they are always a one-shot kill, regardless of where you hit, even while the semi-auto ones were pathetically weak in comparison, to say nothing of the faster submachine guns. In World at War, the full-auto submachine guns are by far the most used and useful; the semi-autos just do not have the fire rate to compete, and the machine guns are too heavy and slow for their similar fire rates and firepower to match the SMGs' comparatively-lightning-quick movement and reload speeds.
      • This is intentionally used in many servers that implement anti-spamming measures. The end result is that a maximum quota for how many players can spawn with each weapon is in place, meaning that there's mostly bolt-action, some semi-auto and automatic, and just a few rockets and flamethrowers.
      • The MP-40 of World at War was widely considered the deadliest weapon in the game, which a developer from Treyarch admitted and apologized for here. The imbalance was on account of the weapon being balanced mathematically so that its direct time to kill a player, if all the bullets hit, was equal to the killing speed of the other submachine guns within their respective effective ranges. Problem was, seemingly, the gun itself was not properly playtested and the MP-40 was able to slip into the released game completely overpowered.
      • The original game had this same sort of issue with the semi-automatic rifles, which combined the power of the bolt-action rifles with fire rates closer to the handguns, because of the fact that the game simply didn't give any to anyone that was not on the American team. They got their choice of the more powerful M1 Garand or the higher-capacity M1 Carbine - everybody else got nothing and had to like it. Portable machine guns suffered the same issue because the only ones present in-game were the American BAR and the British Bren, with the Russian team getting it worst because the Germans at least had something of similar capabilities in the StG 44. Damage fall-off also didn't exist, so someone with one of these limited-issue guns could simply hang back and two-shot enemies from across the map. United Offensive took many steps to balance things properly, by adding damage fall-off, shifting towards machine guns that had to be mounted before they could be fired, and giving both the Germans and Russians new semi-auto rifles. Amusingly, this had the added bonus of also making the campaign balls hard, because the new German semi-auto rifle is handed out quite frequently, but little was done to balance how much damage the AI does with it compared to how much damage you do with it.
  • Team Fortress 2 had the Sandman, a good example of an unbalanced skillset. The Sandman's baseball attack could knock out a player temporarily, but the actual melee attack was weaker to make up for it. But nobody used the Sandman for its melee attack, since the Scattergun was stronger at melee range anyway; the Sandman amounted to a certain kill, provided you could hit with the ball (which wasn't as hard as some players liked to claim). Even worse, the Sandman could stun players under the effect of an Ubercharge (temporary invincibility), which meant either a few wasted seconds of the Uber (if you hit the charge target) or, worse, an entirely wasted Uber (if you hit the Medic). All of this made it the single most hated unlockable, with CEVO actually banning it from competitive play.
    • Valve went around a lot with the issue, mostly implementing damage reduction on stunned players (which sorta worked, but didn't really make a whole lot of sense). The Soldier/Demoman update seems to have finally resolved the issue: getting hit with the ball now puts you into a "fleeing" state, which means you can still run away, but completely removes the damage reduction. You can still get the "stun" effect with a long-range hit, but that's not always practical, i.e. not every map even has a space long enough to do it in. The other downside of the Sandman was that it removed the Scout's double-jump. Scouts were eventually given back the double-jump, but were given a health downgrade.
    • On a more general note, the classes themselves, with the Pyro is a good example. On paper, the Pyro is a Lightning Bruiser with a passive damage ability, balanced by a lack of effective range. In practice, the Pyro is weaker than most offensive classes even in that range, and the Pyro's passive damage is very easily countered. note 
    • A less noticeable example would be some of the unlockable melee weapons compared to their default counterparts, specifically for the Pyro's Fire Axe, Heavy's Fist, and Soldier's Shovel. The unlockable weapons generally are better in specific circumstances and worse in others (Axtinguisher does huge damage against burning enemies and less against others, the Equalizer does less damage at high health and more at low health), or grant special abilities at the cost of making them less effective as weapons (the G.R.U. deals less damage and makes the Heavy take more damage, but lets him run faster). The catch is that default weapons for those classes are almost entirely useless in the first place, even as Emergency Weapons (the Rocket Launcher reloads as fast as a melee weapon can be swung, while the Minigun and Flamethrower don't even have to reload and rarely run out of ammo if the player knows what they're doing.), so there's nowhere to go but up most of the time.
      • The Medic's Bonesaw and Pyro's Fire Axe were and are in the uniquely awful position of being obsoleted by direct upgrades (the Solemn Vow and Third Degree, which respectively let you see enemy health and damage whoever your target is healing or being healed by). However, the Solemn Vow has since been nerfed (given a slightly slower swing-speed with the Gun Mettle update) and the Third Degree is only a minor upgrade to the Fire Axe (hits both the Medic and person healed, but only with the same power of the Fire Axe).
    • As explained in Youtber FUNKe's "State of Specialists", specialists are designed towards a single role such as long defense like Engineer or Heavy or single targets like Sniper and Spy. Generalists like Soldier and Demoman are much more versatile, fitting comfortably in all roles but never shining in certain situations. By making Specialists more versatile, such as making Pyro faster with more burst damage, you start stepping on Generalists' toes and make it harder for the game to flow smoothly. Additionally teams are forced to run different weapons and characters if they're allowed: If RED team had a Sniper with a Darwin's Danger Shield during the time when the Danger Shield made a Sniper able to tank an uncharged headshot, the other team was forced to run it too.
    • A prime example of Balance through Imbalance is the Game Mod for TF2 known as x10, where every weapon has its stats multiplied by 10. As per usual, Tropes Are Not Bad; the mod is very popular because of all the dumb game-breaking things one can do in it, like becoming a nigh-unkillable 2000 HP monstrosity with the Conniver's Kunai or spamming a giant cone of rapid-fire rockets through the Beggar's Bazooka.
  • Command & Conquer: Renegade was balanced in that GDI and Nod each had an approximately equal chance of winning a given match. Other than that, you had infantry which were only worth a damn fighting other infantry, matches that devolved into neverending reverse tug-of-war tank battles due to the repair mechanics, hitscan snipers who could kill with 1-3 bodyshots, and so on. It even failed at the most basic balance and arbitrarily had the GDI version of the standard assault rifle deal two more damage per-shot than Nod's version, which per-bullet is still pathetic (Nod's rifle only did a whopping 5 damage per bullet) but across its whole hundred-round magazine meant a GDI player with decent aim could generally kill one more person per mag, thus maybe three or four more people across his full ammo capacity, than a Nod one could. This balance failure ironically makes it possibly the most faithful FPS conversion of an RTS game ever, as Command & Conquer has always been about tank rushes.
  • Counter-Strike gives us the AWP. It's theoretically balanced because it's a bolt action sniper rifle (thus fairly slow-firing) that fires a big bullet. It isn't balanced at all because a shot to anywhere but the legs can and will kill the target, so the reload doesn't matter unless you're outnumbered, and switching to another weapon then back to the AWP increases the reload animation rate in every game prior to Global Offensive; as a result, the primary disadvantages are its poor field of view and its poor movement speed. The automatic sniper rifles - the D3 and Kreig 550 - do considerably less damage, but fire fast enough to be fairly usable as assault rifles, and generally kill in two hits; most people's reaction to getting killed with one will be to buy one of their own, quickly resulting in the entire server using nothing but them.
    • In reality, the net effect of this is that the map that is being played on heavily influences the balance of the game; on maps with excellent sniping opportunities, such as Aztec, the AWP and the automatic sniper rifles are hilariously effective and it is not uncommon to see literally everyone on a winning team wielding them, particularly when they're playing on the defensive. On maps which are close in, where the limited field of view is more of a problem, constant movement is necessary, or flanking is really easy, the AWP and other sniper rifles are strong but balanced weapons which leave you vulnerable in many cases and cost two rounds' worth of money to buy. This is also a somewhat annoying case of where getting better at the game makes the problem worse - most poor to mid-level players do not use smoke grenades and flashbangs very well, and consequently as their opponents with AWPs get better at aiming, AWPs become increasingly more "broken". Extremely high-skilled players may be very likely to hit with the AWP, but high-skilled players are also more likely to use flashbangs and smoke grenades properly, which makes AWPing less useful as your field of view is much more likely to get ruined.
    • The Tec-9 in Global Offensive. After months of the fanbase calling for a nerf, Valve decreased the magazine size and reduced the range. This did nothing to curb its popularity as 24 bullets is still plenty and the lowered range is still enough to clear out at least one bombsite on each map (especially if you know how to Smoke Out long range positions). The weapon still has next to no recoil, even when running at full speed and can headshot helmeted players at short range.
    • M4A4 and M4A1-S. In theory, the A4's lower price and 120 bullets total (as opposed to 60 on the A1) makes it an even choice. In practice, the A1 has lower recoil, more damage, longer range and a silencer (an example of this trope in itself since lower noise should be balanced by weapon length making it visible through corners, but it only matters in certain camping spots), and all for simply $100 more than the A4. As a result, most of the pros have been playing with the M4A1-S, even after its price was upped to be identical to and then higher than the M4A4's (previously it was $200 lower, which was even worse for the A4); that or they just pick up an AK from a terrorist.
  • In the same vein as the page quote, Call of Juarez: The Cartel has this in regards to its three player characters' special abilities. All three characters have one type of weapon they specialize in and can use far better than the other two can, which seems to be trying to put them into specific ranges of usefulness, with Eddie being the short-range specialist with machine pistols, Ben the mid-range one with machine guns, and Kim the long-range one with sniper rifles. The problem here is that the way guns work in video games (something that sprays bullets everywhere because it's meant for close range is only good at close range, while something that shoots perfectly straight because it's meant for long range can still at least kill someone in close- to mid-range) and the fact that Eddie is the only one to not get a more minor specialization (or at least association) with a different weapon type means the other two are good for any situation while Eddie is only good for his one role. Ben also gets secondary bonuses for shotguns, which are very useful in the close-quarters of the early gang-fighting, and the pistols and revolvers, which make up a good 70% of the game's arsenal and can be paired up at will. Kim likewise gets a secondary bonus for the assault rifles and two-handed SMGs, which cover any range. Eddie just gets the ability to use one-handed SMGs in the place of pistols - an ability that is largely A) useless, due to them having no advantages over the pistols save a slightly-higher capacity (which some of the best pistols match) and full-auto fire rate (which, again, every handgun save for the higher-powered revolvers matches in semi-auto), and B) redundant, due to a very easy to activate glitch that lets the other two characters use an SMG as a pistol as well.
  • As far as most of the classic Doom modding community is concerned, "spawn a million more Revenants" is the answer to all problems, from populating the map to setting up an ambush when the player grabs an important item. This basically turns any given mod into Mercenaries 2, with explosives constantly flying at you from all directions. Taking this further are the maps that spawn Cyberdemons in every corner of the map. Usually these are "joke" levels that are meant to be played in co-op and expect you to die multiple times chipping away at the Cyberdemons - but "usually" is the key word here, and sometimes they are completely serious. The key is to note how many are spawned at a time, how much space you're given to dodge their attacks, and how much ammo you have available to burn through, as when Cyberdemons are on their own it is possible to kill them even with the starting shotguns - it just takes forever. This also has an odd effect where some maps that deliberately go overboard with Cyberdemon spawns will often be easier than "serious" maps by forgetting how big they really are and end up spawning them in areas where they can't do anything to you, spawning them stuck partway in a wall and clipping into two or three other Cyberdemons so as to prevent any of them from doing much more than angrily stomping in place, unable to fire at you until you clear the area a bit.
    • In a case of this applying to enemy balance, the designers of the game vastly underestimated the power of Hitscan. The zombies all use hitscan weapons, despite the game designers clearly viewing them as The Goomba, while every other regularly-appearing enemy uses either Painfully Slow Projectiles or melee attacks. In a game as fast-paced as classic Doom, this turns shotgunners and chaingunners into Demonic Spiders that can cleave off chunks of health without giving you any chance to respond or dodge, especially when encountered in groups (which is very frequent, even early on; the second map of II alone has anywhere from 21 to 50 shotgunners depending on difficulty). Meanwhile, beefier enemies meant to be fill the Elite Mook or boss role like the Cyberdemon or Baron of Hell tend to be borderline non-threats in comparison as long as you have room to keep sprinting.
  • Quake has the same problem, albeit to a lesser degree, with the grunt enemy. They are meant to be The Goomba and only have 30 HP. Unfortunately, they also have Hitscan shotguns, which can be pretty dangerous, especially at close range. This makes them more dangerous than the enforcers (basically harder grunts with laser guns instead of shotguns) in some cases.
  • Hitscan weapons were a major balance issue in any classic FPS where you were supposed to rely on dodging enemy projectiles to stay alive. Yahtzee highlighted this issue in his review of Blood: Fresh Supply.
    But the real seam of bullshit running through Blood like a chocolate brown skirting board is that I don't think the developers realized that the second enemy type in the first level is the hardest one in the game, because they've got hitscan weapons. In the days before anyone could be arsed to calculate such trifles as bullet velocity, you'd just pull the trigger and as long as you have line of sight, the thing dies. And when enemies had such weapons, common courtesy dictated that they should at least cough or say "Hello, I'm about to shoot you!" before they shoot you, so the player's got time to duck or kill them first. Blood's cultists never got that memo; step into their line of sight, and your vital parts will acquire holes like an argument for alternative medicine under any amount of scrutiny. And these motherfuckers are everywhere! In the higher difficulty settings which, as was usually the case in 90's shooters, just meant "same dudes, but twice as many of the fuckers", one struggles to breathe in an atmosphere of 40% lead! Later on, the game introduces new enemies that are clearly supposed to be tougher, like the gargoyles or the fat butchers with the weird resemblance to Henry Kissinger, but none of them have hitscan weapons, so you just circle-strafe and shotgun, and if anything, fighting them is a lovely holiday, away from the twitchy zero-quarter hitscan safari.

    Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game 
  • The World of Warcraft expansion "Wrath of the Lich King" did this accidentally. Due to the combination of a number of issues, healers found that they could quickly grow to the point where they would never run out of mana to cast spells. This allowed non-stop casting (read: spamming) the strongest and quickest heals in the game, which were supposed to be balanced by their higher mana cost. With the infinite stream of powerful heals available, the only way to challenge a raid of 10 or 25 men was by creating bosses that could kill your tank in seconds and raid encounters that made every single raid member take unavoidable damage just to give the raid healers something to do. This in turn led to Paladins (with the ability to cast one strong fast heal non stop) being the only class capable of healing the primary tank and changed all the raid healers to using one or two type of heals that they cast on every raid member as quickly as possible. Meanwhile Player vs Player combat was all about burst damage, at the peak players could die in one to two GCD (minimum length of time between abilities). If that wasn't bad enough the easier AOE tanking combined with a faster progression of gear quality then originally intended led to all non-raid encounters being a tank running headlong into packs of 10 or 20 monsters at a time, keeping them all distracted and allowing the damage dealers to use their one best area effect spell to do damage on all foes. The Cataclysm expansion has changed all of this. There is now limited mana for healers, who have to use every one of their healing spells. Wars have been fought deciding whether the easy AOE fest or (currently) insanely difficult heroics are preferable.
    • In classic, PvP had a rule of thumb that casters would beat warriors (whose armour didn't help with resistance and could easily be kited), warriors would beat rogues (Who could shrug off their fast attacks with their armour and attack their low defenses), and rogues would beat casters (by shredding through their nonexistent armour). The problem was that warriors could easily close the gap caused by kiting and could DPS just as bad as rogues if they were specced for PvP - since all intellect did was give casters more mana and didn't increase the damage their spells did. This meant that casters tended to be a PvE class for the most part, and paladins became more effective healers in PvP because they could take hits and throw immunity buffs. There was also no collision detection, casters had to see their targets (as in, the character has to see them) and hold still - melee attackers could attack while moving.
  • Puzzle Pirates implemented possibly the most bizarre piece of "balancing" in the history of computer games. Apparently players used a supposedly unfair "double floating" exploit (ie cargo barges with armed escorts) all the time, so it was fixed. Enter the Giant Space Flea from Nowhere to catch all giant fleas from nowhere: monkey boat. It also broke PvP since these wonder monkeys shoved a ship aside every time its opponent has as much as one pineapple on board (see the link). Of course.
  • While La Tale tries to avert from this with its PvP, it often fails. At first, gunslingers were just your fragile speedsters: the use of super puzzles quickly made them able to outdo pretty much every class except Guardians. But since every class can do this if they have the time and money to do so, it's really a case of everybody's cheap.
  • City of Heroes had a lot of trouble balancing melee defense sets. Invulnerability and Regeneration are prime examples of Unbalanced Skillset and Unfair/Situational Advantages.
    • Invulnerability offers superior protection against the most common damage types, smashing and lethal while offering no protection against psionic damage. The thing is, the number of psionic foes at launch could be counted on one hand. So there was no problem, just quickly squish the one foe in the Standard Psychic Stance and continue snoring through mobs. This was "balanced" by weakening all of the resistance powers in the set. But that made the passive resistance powers worthless, so min/maxers simply ignored them. To "balance" the No-Sell power Tough Skin, they added a defense penalty to one of Invulnerability's core powers that Tough Skin perfectly negates. So for 18 - 19 levels Invulnerability users were actually MORE likely to get hit than Squishy Wizard blasters!
    • Regeneration applies a massive Healing Factor with little defense, so it's a Good Thing You Can Heal. The regeneration was so easy to maximize at launch foes had less than a second to take out heroes before they completely recovered. The developers struggled with nerfing the redundant regeneration and self-healing powers in the set without rendering them useless, to the point where players joked that every update included a nerf to Regen, just for good measure. The final power in the set served as a Power Up Let Down, because it reduced your health to 25% max with great resistances and defenses, but shut off your regeneration, making you even more vulnerable than blasters.
    • The final power in a sets tried to be a Super Mode, but they were usually a Power Up Let Down. Some required you die first and simply revived you ("balanced" by hurting enemies nearby you.) Some gave you incredible resistances for a few minutes, ending with a massive crash (players noted the duration and the crash lasted too long to make them reliable.)
    • Later in the game's lifespan, Willpower was added, addressing many problems with other sets. It seemed to take the best ideas from Invulnerability and Regeneration, granting heroes decent resistance with a generous Healing Factor without any weaknesses. In theory a Willpower hero could be quickly defeated in an opening salvo, but like Regeneration this rarely happened. Even the Super Mode was "balanced" with a smaller defensive boost, short duration and minor crash, which is exactly what the player base had been asking for! Unsurprisingly Willpower became a fan favorite in short order.
  • Square-Enix made a massive miscalculation with the Ninja job in Final Fantasy XI. The job has two abilities (Utsusemi: Ichi and Ni), both of which let it evade an attack for zero damage. While meant to be a skirmisher/mob puller, players quickly determined that the class functioned far better as a tank class since with proper timing they could avoid nearly all damage a boss put out. Additionally, Ninja as a sub-job allowed for the same evasion abilities along with the ability to dual-wield with zero penalties. Until they boosted two handed weapons to compensate, jobs like Dark Knight were better off wielding two B- rank weapons instead of one A+ scythe.

  • Anti-Mage in Dota 2 has been a hero who has almost never been at a state of having the right amount of balance, yet the players have never reached an agreement on how to fix him. As his name suggests, Anti-Mage is a hero designed to be strong against caster-type heroes. His abilities lets him burn the opponent's mana on attack, has passive magic damage resistance with an active ability that reflects single-target abilities back at the opponent, and an ultimate that deals Area of Effect damage proportional to the amount of mana the target is missing. On paper, this would mean his game plan would be to shrug off the opponent's magic-damage nukes, burn off whatever mana they have left with his autoattacks, then nuke them with his ultimate for massive damage. The problem is he is also a "hard carry", a role that is defined by their Magikarp Power. He's also statistically aligned as a Fragile Speedster, since his primary stat is Agility and his attack speed scales better than most other heroes, and has one of the fastest and most efficient Flash Step in the game. Dota also follows the inverse of Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards, where physical attacks scale better late game than magic users, and Anti-Mage is hard on the right side on the sliding scale of utility and raw damage. This forces Anti-Mage to be balanced in a way that he's effective enough in the early game where he should on paper be more resistant to early-game magic users than other carries, but not too effective that he becomes too hard to shut down early game and snowball out of control too quickly. The rest of the aspects of his kit has to suffer for the sake of balance, such as his poor farming ability. Even in the late game, his design has problems. One of his "anti-mage" qualities is purely defensive, which is somewhat redundant on a type of hero who wants to avoid taking damage at all, his mana burn scales with both his attack speed and the opponent's mana pool, and getting the best case scenario on his ult is impractical, where his target needs to be a mana-guzzling reservoir with bad mana recovery, lets themselves get hit by Anti-Mage enough times to burn enough mana, and be in a terrible position where everywhere can get hit by the AoE, all while his team somehow doesn't focus on the highest-value target, which Anti-Mage will be. Even then, he's not the best counter against casters. Any carry can shred them to pieces late game and where the most practical counter to casters is to buy a Black King Bar for magic immunity or disable and prevent them from using their abilities in the first place, Anti-Mage has zero disruption abilities and magic damage resistance doesn't protect him from crowd control effects. The easiest solutions to fix his kit requires taking away something he already has, but how can you make him a better Anti-Magic hero while keeping his late-game power and his mobility without turning him into a brand new hero? As his Expy in Heroes of Newerth shows, you really can't. All the major changes to try making him fill his niche better without drastically changing him got axed eventually due to adding more balance problems and suggestions to rework him were met with divisiveness since DotA ports in general are considered Sacred Cows that should be faithful to their original form, regardless of other Fake Balance issues.
    • tl;dr version: Anti-Mage is a Glass Cannon Fragile Speedster whose skillset is optimized for a Mighty Glacier and a late-game hero who is supposed to be a counter to a class of heroes that are primarily at their best early-game, yet his methods of countering them are too impractical to actually fulfill his niche.
  • League of Legends is often credited as the game that codified perfect imbalance, with every patch slightly favoring one particular type of champion over others through base statistic manipulation and updated ability kits every now and then.
    • There are tank, assassin and fighter type junglers. Halfway through Season 3, tanks were the only viable choice because gold income for junglers is so low that expensive offensive builds cannot get off the ground against skilled opponents. Season 4, however, saw a surge in assassin-type junglers due to increases on the gold income the player can get from the jungle. Also, junglers with very long ranged dashes, jumps or speed boosts are always better than other junglers because they can sail past wards and jump the laners before they have time to react, enabling them to score kills even against hard turtling opponents.
    • The jungler role entered a state of almost complete flux after season 4 finished. Pre-season 5 rolled in with a complete update of the Summoner's Rift, including, of course, the jungle monsters. The update initially introduced two little crabs that are rather hard to kill but deal no damage and give line of sight of the river when you kill them. The Dragon, instead of just giving its killer a big gold bonus, now gave a permanent, team-wide buff depending on how much Dragon kills your team had, peaking at a massive temporary buff after killing the Dragon five times. Baron Nashor was likewise reworked to grant a team buff that grants a shorter recall and causes any minions near a buffed champion to gain a lot of health, toughness and damage. Season 6 then introduced a Rift Herald that is basically a mini-Baron Nashor that grants a similar bonus to the individual champions who killed it. Then the Smite summoner spell was split into three (initially five, but two were axed): the base spell that just hurts CPU-controlled units, the now defunct White Smite for plundering the enemy jungle, Red and Blue Smite for hurting and slowing enemy champions, the now defunct Purple Smite for extra fast jungle clearing, plus a jungler item introduced on season 6 that doesn't change your Smite but gives you instead refillable sight wards. And every time you Smite a jungle monster, you gain a special buff depending on the one you smote, such as being able to see enemy wards if you smite the Razorbeak. The result was a much greater protagonism for the jungler, who could now be as decisive as the mid-laner or the ADC on early and mid-game regarding the team's entire performance. Season 5 started out with fighter-tanky junglers back in vogue thanks to a jungler item enchantment that grants 25% extra health instead of just a fixed number, then moved on to mage junglers gaining an upper hand with an enchantment that granted a lot of ability power.
    • The bottom lane meta. Certain carries have an escape ability and/or utility, others are all about damage. These two types have never been balanced. During the early sustain meta, it didn't matter because no one died in bottom lane anyway. As sustain and poke supports were gradually nerfed into oblivion and new junglers and supports with powerful gap closers and lockdown abilities were released, escape abilities became mandatory for survival, resulting in the "holy trinity" of Corki-Graves-Ezreal plus Tristana being the only viable carries at the end of Season 2. The ongoing kill potential creep eventually overwhelmed most escape abilities except Ezreal's instant blink, making safety largely irrelevant and again favouring carries with raw damage over everything else.
    • Early Season 3 mid lane. Physical assassins (Talon/Kha'Zix) were a direct counter to the typical mid lane mages, rendering pretty much the entire selection of mid lane mages irrelevant. Before that, there was a time during Season 2 when mid lane was essentially Talon countering Morgana and Morgana/Kassadin countering everyone else.
    • Top lane is currently Jayce/Elise/Kennen/Teemo using their range advantage to obliterate the entire huge pool of top lane fighters. While fighters have many advantages (tons of damage, free stats, an actual ultimate unlike two of the above, cheap builds) and are in fact designed to be statistically better than anything else on the field, their range disadvantage is virtually impossible to make up for unless the opponent is unskilled.
    • Pre-season 6 started out with a Graves rework that turned him into the shortest-ranged, most damaging marksman of the entire roster, along with extra mechanics on four widely-used bot lane marksmen champions: Corki, Caitlyn and Miss Fortune. Then season 6 kicked off with a new champion: Jhin, who converts critical damage and attack speed into pure basic attack damage and is therefore capable of ending up with over 1000 attack damage, plus a Graves-like passive that gives you one free critical hit every 4 shots regardless of item build. And as if the bottom lane wasn't already powerful enough, on top of all that Shen also got a rework that made him one of the best bot lane support champions of the entire game.
    • Counterplay-based balance also plays a huge role in LOL's metagame. AD assassins, for example, are capable of delivering enough damage to single-handedly slaughter the entire enemy team and many people think they're broken beyond redemption. To counterplay an AD assassin, you just need to stun them and leave their paper-thin defenses at the mercy of your team. To counterplay a stun, you just need a Quicksilver Sash. To counterplay a QSS, on ranked games you have your team pick a champion that has knock-up stun (Cho'gath, Blitzcrank, Janna) if you see the enemy using an AD assassin, or you bait the enemy assassin into using it before initiating the fight. To counterplay QSS baiting, you use the Cleanse summoner spell or you tell your support to purchase a Mikael's Crucible that can erase hard CC on friendly champions. Going through another counterplay route, there is also the fact that AD assassins often need ridiculously large amounts of gold to reach their full potential, so bullying them as hard as possible should result in them staying weak and frail for the entire duration of the game.

  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • In ToeJam & Earl, ToeJam is slightly faster, and Earl has slightly more HP. Earl's extra hit points aren't worth much (especially after gaining a few ranks), when ToeJam can avoid being hit entirely much easier. Later stages only exacerbate the difference. Certain enemies are faster than Earl, meaning if he's caught in an open area, he's pretty much guaranteed to lose a life, while ToeJam could escape with only a few hits.
  • In Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest you have Diddy who is more compact and has somewhat tighter controls, and Dixie who can glide. Because levels need to be possible with Diddy as well, Dixie's hair is a borderline Game-Breaker and there's really only two times you'll use Diddy: when you've lost Dixie and when you're trying to keep from losing Dixie.
  • While Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! took considerable steps to balance the two characters, most of these were lost when it came time to port it to the Game Boy owing to Donkey Kong Land 3 having to be trimmed down for the 8-bit handheld. All of Kiddy Kong's useful abilities aren't present owing to the game's lack of the team-up ability and extra abilities, the smaller screen means Kiddy is an uncomfortably large target, and the smaller levels mean Dixie's hover utterly dominates levels more than ever before. Kiddy's only unique ability is being able to kill one specific kind of enemy that Dixie can't, and it's a slow and easy to dodge Kremling that simply paces back and forth and doesn't even appear all that often in the game. The only time you'll opt to use Kiddy is if you're worried you can't get through an area without taking a hit.
  • In the DS release of Super Mario 64, one of the playable characters is Wario, who has the worst jumping skills and speed, but the best damage in combat. This sounds balanced enough on paper, but anyone who's played Mario 64 for more than about ten minutes can tell you that the game is not focused on combat - the vast majority of enemies either can't be damaged by straight combat, can be bypassed easily, or go down with almost no effort, meaning that Wario's strength is basically overkill. On the other hand, having bad jumping skills and speed in a platformer is decidedly more problematic. Wario's only real use turns out to be his ability to break certain kinds of blocks without needing a powerup.
  • In Godzilla: Monster of Monsters!, Mothra can fly, move faster and farther, and shoot projectiles as a standard attack, but because her attacks are so weak and her defense so low she still manages to be worthless compared to Godzilla who tanks damage and has both quick melee attacks that let him plow through enemies and the atomic breath to carve his foes apart. Notably this is the result of international versions being tweaked: in the Japanese release Godzilla's attacks were significantly slower which made the characters more balanced but the game much harder overall.

  • Sonic R: Theoretically, Sonic is the fastest, Knuckles is the most balanced racer, Tails is the third fastest but has the advantage of flight, and Amy is the slowest but happens to drive a car that can drive on water. Eggman is unlockable and is similar to Amy but with the ability to fire homing missiles. However,actually playing the game you'll see that the CPUs fall into pretty much the same pattern every time: Knuckles in first, Sonic in second, Tails in third, Eggman in fourth, and Amy in dead last. To start, Amy's ability of drive on water really only matters at all in one out of the five courses in the game, is not even that much of a speed boost over Knuckles ability to glide over the water, and is later rendered moot by the unlockable robo versions of the characters who can also travel across water. Speaking of Knuckles, his glide is faster and has a much longer range than Tails's flight, making Tails all but pointless. As for the robo versions of the characters, the Tails Doll character is by far the best traveling across water, making the one course where this allows a major shortcut a cheap win if you play as it. Finally, don't even try to race against someone playing as Super Sonic in multiplayer, as this will inevitably be pointless.
  • Twisted Metal games, 2 in particular, messed up hard. Some vehicles/characters were slow, tough and had powerful short ranged special weapons and did a lot of ramming damage, usually enough to instantly kill an opponent with a melee combo. Others were weak, fast and usually long ranged. The obvious problem was that the faster vehicles could simply keep running away and either do hit and run attacks or use their long distance weapons while the slower ones were unable to catch up. The worst example was Spectre, the second fastest vehicle in the game with a special that goes through walls.
    • Vigilante 8 and its sequel averted this issue for the most part by introducing weapons with mapwide range and giving the heavy vehicles long ranged special weapons instead of short ranged ones, thereby ensuring that if the weak fast vehicle keeps running away endlessly he'll lose due to attrition damage. Also, one of the secondary fire modes of said mapwide weapon disables the target, giving even the slowest vehicle a chance to close the gap. The exceptions are the bus and the sequel's garbage truck, both with short ranged weapons and agonisingly slow, both completely useless.
  • Early Wipe Out games had ships that excelled in either handling, acceleration, shield or top speed. But air brakes made it so you wouldn't lose speed if you took corners properly, making acceleration moot, and also making handling irrelevant provided you're good enough to not crash (which was harder in a ship with low handling, but hard didn't mean slow). And if you didn't crash, shield was also unimportant. As a result, the best ship in the game was invariably the fastest ship regardless of its other stats, to the point where a ship with 10% extra speed and zero in all other stats was the best ship. This was averted in later titles where you do slow down while cornering and the enemies sometimes actually hit you with their weapons.
  • Mario Kart Wii had a pretty bad balancing issue between karts and bikes. In theory, karts had more powerful mini-turbos than bikes, but bikes could pop a wheelie for a speed boost in exchange for worse steering and slowing down to a crawl should they bump into anything while doing a wheelie, which would also come into play with the game's constant bombardment of items. However, players that used bikes quickly realized that they could use wheelies at any time and would do so at every chance they got, which gave them a huge advantage on tracks that had many straight roads. Because of this, karts simply could never keep up with a wheelie spamming biker and this boiled over quickly into online play and time trial records.
    • Mario Kart has other examples of this too. For example, in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and Wii, the two types of karts (high acceleration/low speed and high speed/low acceleration) were meant to be roughly balanced, the former could recover from item hits and quickly reach top speed, but couldn't keep up with the latter if it was in front. Unfortunately, high acceleration was also tied into mini turbo stats, so people found they could mini turbo/drift non stop ('snaking'/PRB) and in effect have a permanent Mushroom boost speed, making speed based karts entirely pointless.
    • Then Mario Kart Wii added the aforementioned bikes and a standstill mini turbo technique, which made both karts and acceleration based bikes useless.
    • And Mario Kart 7, due to having the power slide system from the last game plus no bikes has swung the balance back again, with items making acceleration based kart setups the only practical ones.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • When Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3's expansion was released, the game creators specifically left out any programming to let it be multiplayer, knowing full well that some of the units could be used in truly epic overpowering moves. At the top of the list was the Harbinger Gunship (pretty much a flying heavy tank with either a heavy gun or machine gun), the desolator (could kill anything on the ground) and the Giga Fortress, a floating island with 6 main weapons that could transform into a flying head with a ridiculously powerful Wave-Motion Gun.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 purposefully used something close to "Balance Through Imbalance". Like almost all Command & Conquer games, you still have to pump out tanks. But rather than making a bunch of rock-paper-scissors effects with units that can stop tanks, and other units which can stop the tank-stoppers but lose to tanks, they made many units which can be countered by almost anything at all, but if you use them quickly and effectively before they were countered, they could achieve a decisive result. Some games would work out with two equally powerful tank forces facing off while each player tried to be the first one to sneak a spy, hero, commando, etc, into the enemy base, secretly build up some airplanes or ships to attack his enemy's construction yard, etc.
      • Sandbagged Allied GI troops. They may be immobile, but they easily overcome this when they settle down near an enemy base, pulling out their absurdly powerful machine guns that can destroy tanks in good numbers. A bunch of them trained well and deployed in an enemy's base can stop any assault, because any unit constructed or trained will be destroyed before that player can even tell it to do anything. Gets even worse in the expansion pack with the new Guardian GIs, who might not be much for killing infantry, but when deployed there's simply no way to force them out of their holes because, while the massive firepower of massed GIs could be offset by suicide-rushing tanks at them in order to crush the immobile soldiers, deployed Guardian GIs are uncrushable and have anti-tank weapons. Combining the two means certain death to the enemy.
      • As another example, Prism Tanks are allegedly balanced by virtue of being made of paper, but a platoon can so greatly overwhelm a base with their fire power and siege range that by the time they're destroyed, the enemy may be left in ruins unless they prepared heavily against them.
      • The Soviet Desolator is another interesting example, often citied as the one unit the keeps the entire Soviet faction competitive in the Meta Game. They can deploy a radiation field that causes damage to all ground units, and fields can be stacked to create a radiation zone that can rapidly kill anything that ventures into it. Fighting desolators may become a major nusiance if you're playing not as Britain-Allies who can counter with snipers. Unfortunately, this means selecting the Soviet-Iraq faction is often done to the exclusion of the other Soviet nations, somewhat limiting the vareity that could be had from the other choices available.
  • Warcraft II has a case of unbalanced skill sets between the Humans and Orcs. The Orcs have Death Knights as their spell casters which have a wide variety of situational spells which does little to offset the fact that their Ogre-Magi are so overwhelmingly powerful that a Human player has to be very creative to subvert the Orc player's brute force. Human Magi are the opposite of Death Knights, having an arsenal of very useful spells including a very good Invisibility spell for sending select units on surgical strikes. However, the Pladins are supposedly the answer to the Orc Ogre-Magi but will fold quickly in a direct battle. Hence, the Human Meta Game revolves around subverting the Orc player not through direct battle but making heavy use of the Magi to subvert the opponent like sending stealth Magi to cheap-shot the Orc's economy with little chance of saving the targeted workers. On naval maps, Human player are even more dangerous, thanks to the ability to send invisible transport ferries to weak points on an island and unleash all manner of nastiness with little warning.
  • Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne
    • The Human Paladin hero is supposed to have their sheer survivability balanced by deficient offensive capabilities, but are a nightmare for Undead players to counter because of their Divine Shield (invulnerablity up to 35 seconds, it used to be up to 45 seconds) and their healing spell Holy Light harming the Undead. This makes them a very annoying economy raider to deal with.
    • There is a unique case in regards to its single-player-only Naga race. Since the Naga are singleplayer only, it's understandable that Blizzard would overlook balancing this race. The Naga aren't even close to having the same amount of gameplay units and structures as the main orc, human, undead and night elf factions, but once you get your chance to play as the Naga, the unbalance towards how much more powerful their units are in regards to the main races mentioned above becomes apparent. The most obvious unbalance is in regards to the Naga's flying unit, the Couatl. They're about as powerful as the orc Wyverns without their poison spears, but the main difference is that building Wyverns take four food while the Couatls only need two (plus, they have the ability Abolish Magic). Couatl are forces to be reckoned with, but to give these beasts the same amount of food cost as normal footmen just wasn't good balancing. Massing an army of Couatl just spells game-over to the opponent. Thankfully, you only get a shot to build these things in one total mission of the Frozen Throne campaign and the enemy Naga opponents in the game barely ever send more than 4 to 6 of them at a time on Hard difficulty to truly see how unbalanced they are.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • Single classing, dual classing and multiclassing in Baldur's Gate II should provide different approaches to character creation with balanced advantages and disadvantages, as in D&D where this mechanic is explicit in the different counterpoints and is quite tuned (depending on the skills of the dungeon master too). However, the way the videogame rewards experience points and handles level caps makes dual classing almost universally better than single classing in Shadows of Amn (blatant example the kensai/mage), while the sheer amount of experience gained by the time of Throne of Bhaal will compensate for multiclass characters otherwise lagging behind in levels (and fighter/mages start to outclass kensai/mages since they can access to high level abilities for both classes). Single class characters could theorically still reach higher levels, but the increased level cap means that normally they will never reach that point. Instead, dual class and multiclass characters will reach their cap while being not so much behind with their main class compared to a single class character (with negligible differences by this point as they are all at epic levels: a level 25 or even 20 mage is not so different from a level 30 mage, despite there is a lot of difference between a level 5 and a level 10 mage). Only triple multiclass characters (unless in solo) lag behind significatively.
    • Not all stats are equally meaningful and there are Dump Stats. Even if Min-Maxing stats should have its drawbacks, most of the times there are no consequences at all except for rare minor instances.
    • Paladin kits should be balanced against various different foes. Undead Hunters are better performing against the undead. Inquisitors are better perfoming against wizards. Cavaliers are better performing against demons and dragons. Choosing one kit for your character won't result in Crippling Overspecialization, as all of them can perform quite well for the whole game, but you will get some advantages in specific quests, thus experiencing different situations. After the Enhanced Edition added kits to the first game, this balance was only on paper: undead hunters became relatively weaker than cavaliers (whose passive abilities turn some hard encounters of BG 1 into cakewalks) or inquisitors, maybe even plain unkitted paladins. In the first game, the undead are very few and not so strong. So undead hunters often result in a wasted Over Kill in those few moments when they excel, not counting that there are many spells or items that plenty cover what they can do alone, while a cavalier is all-around better wight strengths that cover a wide range of enemies and situations. More generalist fighters perform overall better than any paladin and there is no tactical reason to deploy undead hunters in the first game, except personal role-playing or custom expression.
  • Pokémon
    • Generation I is infamous for this among the fanbase, among several other issues that unfairly stacked the odds.
      • The most noteworthy issue is how the designers greatly underestimated the Psychic type. Both its counters worthless (there were no strong Bug-type moves in the game, with the only Ghost-type move that wasn't a Fixed Damage Attack also being painfully weak), a programming error made Psychics completely immune to the latter instead of the opposite, and even if neither of those things were an issue, Psychic-types were still strong against Poison (with many Mons in the game, including most Bugs and all Ghosts, having that as a secondary typing).
      • The apparent balance between "physical" and "special" types was also an illusion; physical Attack and Defense were separate stats, but the Special stat governed both offense and defense; meaning strong Special attackers were automatically strong Special tanks. Needless to say, Psychic is one of the special types, which only helped that type dominate all the more. Meanwhile, the Dragon type basically failed to exist offensively — its only move was Dragon Rage, which always does 40 damage. The second generation addressed these flaws, and each succeeding generation has fine-tuned the system further.
      • In addition, the Fire-type was rendered completely redundant by Ice, of all types, in Generation I, because except for Ice itself (which was practically moot as all but two Ice-types were part Water, and these two had other, physical, weaknesses) and the never-used Bug, every type that Fire was strong against was also weak to Ice, Ice attacks were strong against some types that Fire was not, including one (Ground) that is strong against Fire, and another (Dragon) which resists its attacks. (The Steel-type had yet to exist.) The Fire-type itself did not resist Ice-type attacks until the following generation, and Ice-type moves were much more common than their Fire-type counterparts anyway, because Ice Beam and Blizzard were both TMs that could be learned by practically any Special-based attacker, while Flamethrowernote  and Fire Blast could only be learned by Pokémon of their own type, with very rare exceptions. If that were not enough, the Freeze status ailment was completely broken in Generation I, as it prevented all attacks, and would never heal in-battle unless the opponent was stupid enough to attack the frozen Pokémon with a Fire-type move, or use Haze. Burn, on the other hand, did nothing but take off 1/16 of the enemy's health each turn, which is negligible. (Later generations would at least fix this by halving the Attack of a burned Pokémon, and giving all frozen Pokémon a chance to thaw each turn.) This meant that using a Fire-type would do nothing but take up a valuable party slot. The changes from Generation II onwards, despite being intended to balance the Psychic-type, actually did more to Nerf the Ice-type than any other. (See below.)
      • Note that there is a slight balance in Special and Physical in the first generation. Special still did not give you protection against Physical. And the Physical side happens to have the Normal type. In the first generation, it was typing that had 1 resistor (Rock) and 1 immunity (Ghost), but nothing weak to it. Defensively, it is immune to the underdeveloped Ghost Type, and weak to Fighting Type. The catch is, in Gen I, the resistor in question is weak (or, in the case of Omastar and Kabutops, at least neutrally-affected) to the ever-common Water, and those that are immune are extremely fragile and weak to the ever-common Ground, and Fighting types are taken down without question by Psychic-types and the fact that good Fighting-type moves are are ridiculously rare. In return, Normal has the crit-fest Slash, the extremely powerful Hyper Beam (with no recharge if it defeats the other Pokemon), and Body Slam, which has the power, wide distribution, and chance to paralyze to make it an extremely game changing move. There is a reason why many Gen I competitive analysis for Normal type on Smogon go around "This thing is good but is not Tauros" or "This thing is really good, but has no Water moves". Like Psychic type above, Normal types were severely nerfed in second gen onwards.
    • Wobbuffet (and its baby form, Wynaut) has very low stats aside from massive HP, and learns just seven moves (with no direct attacks). But its moves are very well-chosen to exploit its ability, Shadow Tag, which traps the enemy. Since it breaks one of Pokemon's key concepts, switching to another Pokémon, Wobbuffet is highly treasured in competitions that allow trainers to use the Game-Breaker Olympus Mons.
    • In a more general note, Pokémon is balanced by luck, as there are quite a number of moves with their additional effects chance of occurring is determined by the Random Number God.
      • However, there is still the consistent problem caused by an unbalance in what moves outside your type most Pokemon can use. Just taking the core "Grass->Water->Fire->Grass" triangle, it is unbalanced by the fact that nearly every Water-type Pokemon can learn Ice-type attacks against Grass-types, while few Fire types can learn moves effective against Water-types (this was somewhat fixed by letting many of them learn Solar Beam and/or Energy Ball) and even fewer Grass-types can learn Rock-type moves to take out Fire-types.
    • Two typings stand out the most in Pokémon other than Gen I Psychic and Normal, which were Gen IV Dragon and Water. Dragon only has two weaknesses: Ice and itself, but it has ridiculously strong moves (something that it lacked in previous gens) that are only resisted by Steel types. Water has two weakness, Grass and Electric, both of which are easily covered by 2 relatively widespread moves and offensively is super effective against Fire, Ground, and Rock while only resisted by Water, Dragon, and Grass (the last two, of course, are no problem thanks to most Water-types being able to learn Ice moves). The issue comes from the fact that Dragon is only resisted by Steel, coupled with its absurdly and easily covered powerful moves, and Water is such a well rounded type among the typing it can do almost every role.
    • Another issue with those two typings are the fact that they have ridiculously well spread moves on both offensive sides. Every Dragon-type can learn Outrage, Dragon Pulse, and Draco Meteor, and Kingdra and Dragalge are the only fully-evolved Dragon-types that can't learn Dragon Claw. As for Water types, Hydro Pump is extremely common, and Surf, Waterfall, Aqua Tail, and Scald are spread amongst every Water-type in existence (and to add insult to injury, Scald has a higher burn chance than most Fire moves). While other types have more powerful and specialized moves on one side of the offense, no other types have the combined balance of typing coverage and movepool that these two have, so much that there's only one Dragon type that is not OU on Smogon's Tier List for Gen IV (Altaria), which is considered as really underpowered stats-wise, and Water has the most number of OU Pokémon and even many of those not considered OU are perfectly usable in that tier. Even in Ubers, Dragon is considered the most dangerous offensive typing of the tier while the so called "King of Ubers" is Kyogre, a Water-type.
      • Partially addressed in Generation VI, which introduced the Fairy-type to balance out the Dragons. Not only do Dragons take super-effective damage from Fairies, but Fairy-types are immune to Dragon-type moves. However, the trend of Fairy types having low physical defense and mediocre speed makes them generally ill-suited as proper counters to the majority of Dragon types, who tend to be speedy, physical powerhouses that are more than capable of dispatching them with their non-Dragon type attacks. They did, though, manage to curb the usage of Outrage, which was previously considered the most threatening Dragon-type attack, but now carries a serious risk due to Fairy types being able to switch into it freely.
    • Ice-type Pokémon are the most useless type in the series thanks to this. Most of the types they have an advantage to (Grass, Flying and Ground) have other, easier to find weaknesses available earlier than you will have access to Ice and Ice-type weaknesses (Fire, Fighting and Rock) are easy to find too. This means the only advantage they had prior to Gen VI was been the only type that is strong against Dragon-types apart from Dragon itself. However, most Dragon Pokémon can learn a Fire move and most Water types can learn an Ice move too making this redundant. Then Fairy-Type in Gen VI gave every other type viewed as useless a reason to be used while removing the only reason to use Ice.
      • Gen VII did a lot to help Ice. Every Ice type introduced her is dual typed and while this gives some of them quad weaknesses it means they can do more than just fight Dragons. Hail received some boosts as well by finally getting a Swift Swim/Chlorophyll/Sand Rush equivalent in Slush Rush.
    • Generation V has one with the weathers. Sun, Sandstorm and Rain. They are supposed to balance each other (Sun weakens Water/boosts Fire, Rain weakens Fire/boosts Water, Sandstorm hurts everybody not Steel, Ground, or Rock-type and boosts the Special Defense of Rock-types) and the metagame is supposed to be who can defend their summoner (Groudon/Ninetales, Tyranitar/Hippowdon, and Kyogre/Politoed) and win the game. It worked well, until players realized that Water is such an amazing and well rounded offensive typing that is far easier to spam than Fire, Grass, Steel, Rock and Ground. As a bonus, Swift Swim Pokemon have boosted speed and turbocharged Same-Type Attack Bonus. Chlorophyll Pokemon only got boosted speed, an instant-use Solar Beam, which is risky in a case of Weather-summoning switch-ins, and Fire type moves get the boost that Grass-types lack. With Sand Rush, Sand Veil, and Sand Force, they only get to choose from Doubled speed, 30% attack boost to Ground/Steel/Rock attacks, or boosted evasion (Rain gives 50% powerboost to Water without a need of ability) but not both at once. Rain is the only one that boosts both speed and offensive powers. You can see how well the "weather wars" worked out.
      • Another issue comes from the summoner itself. Both Sandstorm summoners are also considered OU - Hippowdon (powerful tank) and Tyranitar (an OU standard). The other two non-legendary summoners are former NU Pokémon. While Ninetales is a one-trick pony both statswise and movepool wise, ridiculously frail by the weather summoner's standard and is weak to Stealth Rock AND vulnerable to Spikes, for a Pokémon that's supposed to switch repeatedly, Politoed gets by with the typical good movepool of Water-types as well as decent defenses. Hence the Weather metagame at the time become Rain dominating with its so-called "Broken Trio" (a collective term for Kingdra, Kabutops and Ludicolo) and a bunch of other Rain abusers; Sand behind it with Excadrill, Landorus and sometime Terrakion; and Sun relatively obscure with Venusaur, Volcarona, and Heatran as their usual core.
      • Hail, on the other hand, was practically non-existent prior to Gen VII. The only Pokemon who can take advantage of it are Ice-types, which are very seldom used. It also suffers from not having a version of Swift Swim, Chlorophyll or Sand Rush. Their only summoner, Abomasnow (Aurorus also has it, but it's impossible to get one normally), has far too many weaknesses and doesn't have the defenses or offenses to stand a chance in the advanced Pokémon metagame. Gen VII gave it a lot of buffs with two new setters, Slush Rush for a speed boost and Aurora Veil, essentially Reflect and Light Screen in one move that only works in Hail.
      • Seemingly fixed in Generation VI, with weather-summoning abilities being nerfed to only last five turns note , so weather is not nearly as common.
    • Stealth Rock is a perfect example of "Everybody's Cheap". In single battles it's absurdly powerful (one use damages every opponent that comes out as much as 50% health, since, unlike the other entry hazards, it factors weakness and resistance into its damage, and removing it is harder than setting up because that takes a turn and can be blocked by switching to a ghost type), but an enormous number of Pokémon in 4th gen can learn it. As a result, every team uses it and every Pokémon's value is tremendously affected by how much they're affected by Stealth Rock — Charizard is notoriously affected, to name one. The developers attempted to rein this behavior in in the fifth generation by making it only available to monsters who learn it normally by level up or through breeding, which still fails as everyone just ported over their Gen IV Pokemon that knew Stealth Rock — it even came back as a tutor move in Black 2 and White 2, presumably because they didn't want to give people who do so such a huge advantage.
      • Addressed in Generation VI, when Defog, which is also obtainable by a lot of Pokémon in Generation IV, has been changed to remove entry hazards from both sides. And unlike Rapid Spin, no Pokémon is completely immune to it, so you have no worries about the opponent trying to switch to counter your Defog. note Only problem that remains is how most Pokemon that learn Defog are Flying-types... and are therefore also weak to Stealth Rock, making it harder for them to use the move without dying first.
    • Regigigas falls under "Skill Overestimated". It has extremely high stats in nearly every category, but is hindered by its "Slow Start" ability, which halves its attack and speed until it stays in battle for five straight turns. Unfortunately for the trainer, five turns is more than enough time for your opponent to take advantage of, and switching out resets the timer, so once Regigigas is sent out in battle you have to keep it there, which takes away a big part of battle strategy. To make matters worse, to try and make it even more "balanced", it is the only Pokémon who can learn TMs that is unable to learn Protect or Rest, two moves that could normally help it try and stall for time. In the end, the developers went way too far in trying to balance Regigigas's power, and it ended up becoming useless instead, though it being given the aforementioned moves in Gen VIII might help.
    • Gen VI brought certain Mega Evolutions and abilities which indirectly gave a power boost to moves with priority, which falls under "Skill Underestimated". Mega Lucario can use particularly powerful Bullet Punches. Talonflame has priority Brave Birds (an attack 3 times stronger than the typical priority move). Azumarill has now one of the best typings in the game and can use Aqua Jet with a hefty Attack Power. Mega Kangaskhan and Mega Mawile can OHKO the vast majority of attackers with Sucker Punch. Mega Pinsir can use its ability to boost Quick Attacks to insanely high power levels. Pokemon who would be viable sweepers now suffer if they don't carry any type of priority attack.
    • Gen VII has Pheromosa, who falls under "Unbalanced Skillset." Its movepool is incredibly barren, with it having only five or six viable moves, making it effectively a one-trick pony. It's also atrocious in terms of bulk, with its HP and defensive stats being around the level of the biggest Glass Cannon in the series. However, its tiny movepool also gives it just enough room to not be 100% predictable, and its offensive stats are massive, allowing it to easily outspeed and OHKO anything that isn't boosted, and even some things that are! Game Freak also cut down on the effectiveness of priority, so something that would "only" allow it to be very threatening doesn't do much to it. Lastly, its ability is designed to snowball after it gets KOs, meaning that depending on the set, things that could've taken an attack before will no longer be able to, or things that would've been able to revenge kill it are no longer fast enough.
  • Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice and Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten introduced a new mechanic that allowed the player to boost the damage dealt by his skills by using Mana. Problem is, while the starting damage potential takes into account the enemy defenses, the boosts do not. This quickly escalates to a level where both you and the computer units will be killing each other with one or two attacks since both of you effectively have 0 Defense. Needless to say, tank-like classes became outright useless.
    • The two games also heavily nerfed magic-oriented classes while giving a huge boost on physical-based units. In the end, physical oriented Glass Cannon characters outranked everyone else.
    • Also, Monster classes. Being limited by a small movepool and being unable to lift and throw enemies, there was little to no point on using them while there was always a humanoid class that could do whatever a monster could do, just better.
      • In the first game most of the monster classes exist for the sole purpose of to be used by the enemies, as they tend to have low stats and their skills are usually pretty weak, but the enemies will have artificially boosted stats in order to make them effective.
  • Final Fantasy VI has fourteen playable characters, so it's expected that not all of them would be balance. Still, there's a recurring issue with many characters (Gau, Setzer, Relm, Mog, Umaro to some extent) having their skill being a set of some kind of spell-like powers that cost no Magic Points to use in return for being somewhat random in execution. Except this is a game where Magic Points are trivial, so you effectively have characters that can perform the skills you want them to and other characters who may randomly do useless things on their turns.
  • Final Fantasy X has seven playable characters, each with their own area of expertise, and each with different advantages and drawbacks (for example, Lulu has powerful magic and a large MP pool, but piddling physical strength and below-average defense). That is, except Kimahri, who has no real area of expertise and isn't the very best at anything. He has decent strength, but it's not as high as Auron's or Wakka's, his weapons have Piercing, but so do Auron's and the latter can One-Hit Kill armored enemies when he first joins the party while Kimahri can't, his Blue Mage Overdrives are functionally useless past a few early-game bosses and he won't learn any that deal worthwhile damage until a point in the game where everyone else can use powerful attacks pretty much every turn, and his Sphere Grid gimmick only works with an intensive Level Grinding investment Explanation . And to top it off, the one boss battle where you must use him alone scales to his level, meaning there's no incentive to invest any time training him at all. If there's a character that's going to end up falling by the wayside in a normal playthrough, it's Kimahri.
  • The further along you play in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles 1 the more obvious it becomes that it's really not meant for single player. Come cycle 3 onwards, if you haven't been making repeated trips into the dungeons, you're going to be way behind while enemies in cycle 3 and above can hit you exceptionally hard if not in even greater numbers than before to the point of overwhelming the single playetr. You can't go back through cycles either; so if you've been playing carelessly through the game without farming or stocking up on artifacts, you're in big trouble late game.
    • Lilties have it equally hard in the later cycles under skill underestimated. Later in the game, various enemies of either undead, stone, or flying show up and they require fused magic of either holy or gravity respectively to hit them. Lilties have the slowest spell charge speed which puts them at a disadvantage late game when time is of the essence and you're getting swarmed by a few undead enemies while you're trying to fire off a holy spell.
  • In Mass Effect 2, increasing the difficulty level strengthened enemies. Putting it on Hardcore or Insanity, however, just gave every enemy an additional layer of protection (kinetic shields, biotic barriers, or armor). Unfortunately, the vast majority of enemies gained kinetic shields. This resulting in Adepts (and Vanguards, to a lesser extent) being severely gimped on higher difficulties, since biotic powers are incapable of damaging kinetic shields and many are ineffective on enemies with additional layers of protection. Powers like Shockwave and Throw became Awesome, but Impractical finishing moves, as opposed to the room-clearers they were on lower difficulties.
  • The lack of collision detection in Dragonica means that the only way for the Knight classes to keep big bad bosses off squishies is to Crowd Control them indefinitely. This has obvious implications in PVP.
  • The three Original Generation Humongous Mecha of Super Robot Wars Judgment are supposed to be balanced, with Real Robots "Bellzelute" as a light, dodgy sniper and "Coustwell" the somewhat heavier, melee counterpart. "Granteed", the Super Robot, is supposed to be the tanker with balanced weapons on both ends. However, thanks to the AI's tendency to attack units with lower evasion rates, the Granteed and its overwhelming armor rating makes it better than the other two. As a bonus, because it is an L-sized unit, attack and defense bonuses are increased, with weapons so powerful its second strongest is greater than the final attack of the other originals, not to mention good weapon reach that makes it the best sniper, tanker, and melee attacker out of all three.
    • The actual balance comes in with how the protagonist receives a different set of "Spirit Commands", depending on whether they're piloting the Granteed or not. On a first playthrough, if the male pilot uses the Granteed, he receives the "Accelerate" Spirit Command, which doesn't quite compensate for the unit's base movement of five. When it finally arrives on the frontlines (or within range of it), it's the best of the three and solidifies its position as the top-tier super, but not before.
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is usually a very balanced game combat/stats wise... except the designers clearly underestimated the effects of the badge system. Indeed, many of the more powerful badges would be really fair if only the opponents had about ten times the amount of health and could actually recover from their effects before the battle ends. Cue things like time freezing effects that let you end the final boss battle in under three minutes, or an instant on call reset button that breaks everything. They also presumably failed to take the existence of badge slots into account, since it completely makes the speed at which powerful badges charge (outside the Battle Ring) completely irrelevant (since you can just grind them on weaker enemies before the battle you want to use them in, coming in with an Infinity +1 Sword from the go).
  • Star Trek Online tried to organize itself around the RPG trinity, with escorts and tactical powers as the damage dealers, cruisers and engineering powers as the tanks, and science vessels as the healers/drainers. Unfortunately metagamers rapidly discovered that the frankly ludicrous level of Character Customization available blew the balance out of space.
    • In PVE, even a cruiser fully specced into threat generation often has a hard time keeping fire off of DPS escorts. This was partially fixed by the late 2013 addition of "cruiser command" auras, which include the "Attract Fire" aura for boosting threat gen. Unfortunately only conventional cruisers get "Attract Fire"note , and the game mechanics encourage focusing on damage output rather than holding fire off of your compatriots anyway.
    • Many of the offensive science powers aren't very useful for PVE for various reasons, and most ships have enough science officer slots to heal less serious damage themselves. Later mitigated, but not fully fixed, by the addition of PVE queues such as "Crystalline Entity" where science crowd-control and debuff powers are extremely helpful.
    • Many escorts can be nearly indestructible if built well, and since blasting things to death is the only route to victory maximizing your damage is the most efficient use of your skill points. Even outside escorts, ships with high numbers of tactical officer slots are highly sought after, with iconic but engineering-heavy vessels like the Galaxy-class left to sulk in the corner.
    • In the leadup to, and launch of, season 8, however, Cryptic made several improvements. The new PVE events are set up to give tacscortsnote  a hard time and give other classes a chance to shine. The Voth have a tendency to do heavy damage straight through your shields, which can be deadly to Glass Cannon escorts but just annoying to cruisers. "The Breach" highly favors beam arrays over dual cannons, and "Storming the Spire" is best done with a mixed team because of its complexity.
  • SD Gundam Capsule Fighter has this problem. At one time, the game used to run on a Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors layout: melee were rock-based, long ranged were paper-based and everyone in-between were scissor-based. For example, God Gundam, a rock-based, could beat the Strike Freedom, a scissor-based, who could beat the Victory 2 Buster, a paper-based, who could beat God Gundam. This was dropped in favor of a parts system with Generation Six, leading to people favoring MCAnote , machine gunners, spray missile launchers and anyone with the skill N-Jammer Cancellernote 
  • Butters in South Park: The Stick of Truth is a solid attacker with a versatile array of techniques that include healing, buffing, and attacking. This was meant to be balanced out by his "Born Victim" trait that makes enemies attack him 2/3rds of the time, but in reality this trait is actually a blessing in disguise: it makes enemies more predictable and draws fire from your player character, allowing you to more reliably buff and heal your party, and of course having your partner go down is far less devastating than your main. Because of this Butters is vastly more useful than the other party members in the game.
  • Dark Souls had serious balance issues with its weapons. There were four types of weapons- basic, mundane weapons, special weapons, weapons created by transmuting the souls of defeated bosses, and dragon weapons, each divided by the type of material used to upgrade them (basic Titanite, Twinking Titanite, Demon Titanite and Dragon Scales). Unfortunately Boring, but Practical ended up being the order of the day, since only basic weapons could be upgraded beyond level 5- sure, you required a pair of special Embers to give to a specific blacksmith to get past the level 5 and 10 caps, but once you had them a basic weapon could be upgraded to +15. While special, boss and dragon weapons could come with a number of special attributes and unique attacks, From Software seriously overestimated how valuable these effects were compared to the raw face-smashing power of a +15 weapon that simply has much higher DPS. To add insult to injury, only basic weapons could be imbued with special elements (like lightning and chaos), and there were very few special weapons that you were allowed to buff with damage-enhancing items or spells, which would often contribute almost as much damage as the weapon itself. Very few non-basic weapons were considered worth using in the long run for anything other than fun (such as the Black Knight Halberd and Quelaag's Furysword), resulting in a game where a sword crafted from the crystallized soul of a fallen god was considered worthless next to the basic Zweihander you found lying around in the first area after the tutorial zone. Armour was even worse, since they didn't have things like move sets to differentiate them and a lot of non-basic sets couldn't be upgraded at all. Later games fixed the issue by both lowering the level cap for basic weapons (from +15 to +10) and increasing the damage scaling that non-basic weapons received so a +5 boss weapon would scale as well as or even better than a +10 basic weapon.
  • Oh dear, where do we begin with Infinite Space...
    • There are three sizes of ship: destroyers (small), cruisers (medium) and battleships (large- carriers are also large size, but are less direct combat-focused ships). Smaller ships move faster (filling your action gauge more quickly) but are obviously weaker. The problem is that if you can use battleships, you use friggin' battleships. The difference in both firepower and durability between tiers is exponential, completely lopsiding the speed vs power equation- a destroyer may be able to act more often than a battleship, but its small-sized popguns are effectively worthless against battleship defences (they can barely even damage cruisers), while the large scale weapons mounted on capital ships will melt through smaller craft. Cruisers have the additional balance millstone that they were supposed to function as point defence craft, but that brings us to the other major issue with the ship combat, and the reason carriers still had a place in the game despite having less raw power than battleships:
    • Support craft were just completely and utterly broken. When you launch fighters and bombers, they head across the field towards the enemy fleet, and if the enemy has any support craft of their own they meet in the middle and fight until one side is wiped out, so only one side will ever reach their opponent. When the support craft reach the enemy fleet, they not only lock the opponents in place, preventing them from maneuvering, they also inflict slow but constant damage over time as their tiny weapons wear the enemy down. Point defence guns were completely ineffective against them- not only did you have to actually expend an action to have them fire on the attacking fighters and bombers (preventing you from doing anything to the enemy capital ships in the meantime), they quite simply didn't work as despite being supposedly optimised for shooting down support craft, at best they would slowly wear away at the enemy squadrons while their motherships pounded you into dog meat unopposed. As a result, there was no reason to bother with point defence guns at all (which negated the one unique selling point of cruisers) when you could just pile on more fighter bays so you would be the one to win the dogfight phase and have support craft superiority. The only fleet composition worth using at later stages of Infinite Space was a mix of battleships and carriers with as many fighters and bombers as you could cram onto them.
  • Happens in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep with regard to the three protagonists: Terra, Ventus and Aqua. On paper it seems fine: Terra is the physically strongest with the longest keyblades, physical oriented moves and command styles and highest defense and HP, while Ventus favors speed, mobility and combos and Aqua focusing on spellcasting with her physical damage suffering as a result. It quickly becomes apparent that this isn't balanced at all, however, as the aggressiveness of enemies and bosses ignore or interrupt physical attacks so often that Terra's slow strikes become a liability rather than a reliable damage dealer, and his lack of mobility or non-physical damage options severely limiting his playstyle to blocking and the few commands that do work. Ventus and Aqua's speed and much more versatile mobility and damage options make it much easier for them to not only outdamage Terra, but also play defensively better than he does despite his intention of being the defensive character.
  • Fate/Grand Order suffered from a big case of Underestimated Ability early on, in the form of hit counts. Essentially, every attack, aside from its damage, has the chance to generate critical stars to enable more crits next turn and will build up the gauge of the Noble Phantasm. The developers thought that the natural boosts to those brought by Quick and Arts cards, respectively, along with skills of Servants to boost NP gain or star generation, would ensure those effects mattered. However, what they didn't realize was that all attacks also hit a set number of times—and the above generation stats were linked to those hits. And the vast majority of launch characters had only two hits on Quick and Arts attacks, so they frankly sucked at generating stars or charging their attacks even when they did had skills to boost them (including all the early Assassins, barring Cursed Arm Hassan's three-hit Quick cards), while Buster cards just hit really hard without minding hitcounts. This led to the early meta being dominated by Buster-users, and since then, it's become very rare for a new character to be released with less than three hits on their Quick or Arts attacks.
  • Alchemy in Secret of Evermore relies on three factors to balance them: rarity / cost of ingredients, how many of each ingredient they use (thus limiting their stock), and how many formulas use overlapping ingredients. The more powerful or more useful spells will either have rare or limited ingredients (Call Up which uses Dry Ice, or Miracle Cure which uses Vinegar), will dip into the same stock as other good formulas (Like how Heal, Cure, Revive, One Up, and Drain all use Roots, limiting your overall ability to heal), or will use more ingredients than others (Like Acid Rain, Corrosion, and Revive, which each need three of one ingredient and are limited to a stock of 33 max). It largely works until you get to the Crush formula. Obtained early in the game, check. Costs only one of each ingredient, check. Its ingredients are cheap and readily available, check. The only other formulas that use its ingredients are either unneccessary or outclassed by it, check. When fully leveled it can easily hit the damage cap of 999 when targeting multiple enemies, check.

    Shoot Em Ups 
  • 32X shooter Shadow Squadron has two ships to choose from: Feather 1, with rapid-fire but weak lasers, a special shield that does diddly squat to protect your ship, and homing missiles that are pitifully weak. Feather 2, on the other hand, has a powerful laser that can fire as fast as you can push the fire button (which theoretically means even faster than Feather 1,) a massive rocket more suited for using against the giant battleships that are your primary target for the game, and the ability to shoot down enemy missiles (the primary projectile you have to deal with, and an ability that Feather 1 sorely lacks), allowing Feather 2 to chew through anything almost effortlessly. Simply put, Feather 1 is inferior to Feather 2 in every single way but one: Feather 1 gets its energy and normal shields replenished after every mission, while Feather 2 has a massive stockpile of energy that has to carry it through the whole game, and burns energy at the end of every mission to replenish its shields. And even then, you shouldn't be taking too many hits since you can shoot down enemy missiles, and Feather 2's energy stockpile is more than enough to carry it through the game, especially since using a continue replenishes it completely.
  • A textbook example of fake balance was present in the old Asteroids-like Mac game Asterax. The player can choose one of three ships: the Moth, which had mediocre everything; the Crab, which had good guns and shields but tiny engines; and the Mantis, which had good engines but tiny guns and shields. The problem with this arrangement came in the form of the game's item shop selling guns, engines and shields, which meant that a Crab pilot could upgrade away their ship's sole deficiency with a single purchase, while Moth and Mantis pilots would need to buy two or three upgrades to reach the same level of effectiveness. Not to mention, as you might expect in an Asteroids game, "better" (i.e. faster) engines can make the game harder instead of easier anyway.
  • The Thraddash in Star Control II. This ship is designed to be a Joke Character: it has very few crew, and its weapon does a measly one damage. However, said weapon also has an unusually long range, and the ship is one of the fastest in the game when its afterburner is used. This allows a skilled Thraddash player to stay out of range from the other ship's guns while slowly wearing it down. Thraddash is the only ship which is routinely banned from competitive play, for this reason.
    • The price the Androsynth is so much lower than the actual value of the ship that it's considered a must-have.
    • As a side effect of the Androsynth being considered a must-have because of its price, the Orz, which is otherwise reasonably priced, is made far less effective; the Androsynth is the natural counter to the Orz, so you're pretty much guaranteed to only be able to use it effectively for one battle. This hurts especially hard because the Orz is a very powerful ship, and typically only cost-effective if it can win multiple battles.
    • The Ur-Quan Dreadnought is supposed to be one of the most powerful ships in the game, equipped with a very powerful, rapid-fire fusion blaster and able to launch large waves of smaller fighters. Unfortunately, the fusion blaster travels slowly, making it difficult to aim at fast-moving targets, and the fighters, which cost a crew each to launch, are incredibly stupid and fragile. These factors added together make the Ur-Quan so ineffective compared to its great cost that it has been called the "Banana Boat" by some fans.
    • The Spathi Eluder manages to achieve this in both directions. Against the A.I., the Spathi is massively overpowering; the A.I. stupidly chases a fleeing player around, and the Spathi shoots homing missiles from behind, so many A.I. controlled ships can be easily decimated by the Spathi. Against humans who know better than to blindly chase around the other ship, however, the Spathi's rear-facing missile is pretty much useless because of its slow speed.
  • Blazing Star has the Peplos classified as a "Difficult" ship, never being able to power up but in turn getting big Secret bonuses just for clearing stages with the ship and abusing the excess power-up bonus to jack up the Dynamic Difficulty for lots of high-scoring opportunities. In practice, the "Simple"-classed Windina is by and far regarded as the best score-chasing ship that can use the Area of Effect explosions of its Charged Attack to easily obliterate most enemies on the screen wih multiplier bonuses.

  • In Madden NFL and its sister series NCAA, the developers seem unable to properly balance special teams play. Given that any method of blocking kicks or returning them can rather quickly be determined and exploited, they have opted to take it completely in the opposite direction. Whereas in Madden 10, it was possible to see 1-2 kickoffs returned for touchdowns every game, in 11 you might not see one at all in a year.
  • Inverted in Space Jam where all the Mon Stars have much worse stats compared to the Toons (who have Michael Jordan, a Master of All, and Bugs Bunny who comes pretty close). However the Mon Stars are all huge, meaning they make up for it purely for having much larger hitboxes and thus a much easier time getting their hands on the ball. Anyone going in with a team of Michael, Bugs, and Lola will find they're actually pretty evenly matched against any combination of Mon Stars since while the Toons are much better at shooting the ball, they won't get as many shots as the Mon Stars.

    Survival Horror 
  • In Resident Evil you can pick between Chris and Jill. Jill can pick locks, carry 8 items, can get the Grenade Launcher right at the beginning of the game (which is a Disk One Nuke), and has Barry at her back who on several occasions gives her extra ammo and even gives her earlier access to the shotgun by breaking her out of the trap Chris has to circumvent himself. Chris gets the useless flamethrower late in the game, carries only 6 items, must find keys to open doors, and has to babysit the rookie Rebecca, but takes about twice as many hits to kill to balance it out. However, since Jill can pick locks and carry more items, it means far less backtracking and far less encountering enemies, and her handy dandy grenade launcher can take out the tough ones. This was justified in the Japanese version of the original, where the character select screen was also the difficulty selection screen, with Chris's story being "Hard mode". The only time Chris is a better character is if you're going to be relying on the knife, as his much higher defense bundled with his knife's higher damage output actually makes it a viable option against zombies, dogs, and spiders if you know how to use it.
    • The REMake goes some way to leveling the playing field. While most of Jill's advantages remain intact, Chris is given better weapon handling and an easier time scoring headshots, a better defensive item that decapitates foes, and the ability to start immolating bodies as soon as he gets the flask (whereas Jill must wait to get both the flask and the lighter); all of which are important advantages, as zombies who aren't decapitated or immolated turn into the nasty Crimson Heads. Jill also doesn't get the Grenade Launcher quite as early as she did before, but she does get the Assault Shotgun considerably earlier than Chris in addition to the regular Shotgun. While she can get some help during the Yawn fight while Chris has to go it alone, this isn't as beneficial as it seems as it means Jill has to stand and fight if she doesn't want to miss out on said Assault Shotgun while Chris is free to duck past Yawn, grab the MacGuffin, and just bail without a fight. Chris also gets an entirely different knife than Jill which now has better reach and staggers enemies more than Jill's.
  • Resident Evil 2 flipped the genders, with Claire being near useless compared to Leon. On top of taking far less damage, Leon gets a vastly superior load-out: his starting handgun is better than Claire's, he gets access to a magnum and a shotgun, and all three of those weapons can be upgraded. Claire can pick locks, but there are only three locks in the entire game that can be opened this way (two in the police station and one in the sewers on the B scenario), and although she gets the superior grenade launcher and the Lethal Joke Weapon Spark Shot, she is still outclassed in pretty much every aspect. At least it's justified, with Leon being a prodigy cop and Claire simply being a university student, but despite this most players pick Claire for the first playthrough anyway simply because they remember the last game even in spite of the game making it fairly clear you should play Leon's first by labeling his disk as Disk 1 and hers as Disk 2. In fact, so many fans insisted on playing Claire's story first that the official canon events of the game are Claire A Leon B.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Several examples in the Fire Emblem series:
    • Archers are hit hard by this. Their speciality is proficiency in bows, which allow them to attack from 2 spaces away, with some bows having even longer range. However, in most games, they can't attack directly adjacent enemies, meaning they just have to weather the abuse instead of countering when enemy melee units close the distance on their turn. Considering their typically low stats, this seriously impacts their survivability, but there's another issue due to how Fire Emblem assigns experience points—if they're only attacking half the time, they're also only earning half the experience. Worse still, they don't have exclusive access to ranged attacks; magic-users are able to attack from range and melee (in addition to the powerful "siege" tomes that let mages attack from up to ten spaces away), and there are ranged versions of spears and axes that also have melee and ranged abilities. They aren't even the only bow users, as nomads, bow knights, and hunters also use bows while also having better balanced stats and better movement. The one niche they could be said to have, which is bonus damage against flying units, isn't even always unique to them, as there's been more than one game where mages have flyer-slaying weapons as well. All this adds up to create a mongrel of a class that can't do much of anything that other units can't do better, with only a handful of archers in the entire series having anything noteworthy about them to make them worth using.
    • The cavalier class has this tilted in its favor, especially in games where cavaliers aren't segregated by weapon type. They combine high movement with high base stats in almost every area, and in some games they even have access to two-thirds of the weapon triangle before promotion. There are usually a huge number of them per game (particularly in games where there are multiple types of cavaliers), whereas most other classes only have a handful of characters. When they promote, they typically receive large boosts to both stats they are strong in and stats they are weak in, and sometimes even gain access to all three weapon types in the weapon triangle. The few weaknesses they could be said to have are difficulty traversing certain types of terrain (only occasionally a problem, and most of that terrain is extremely difficult to traverse for infantry units anyway), a weakness to certain types of weapons (hardly even a weakness, as horseslaying weapons are preposterously rare), and in some games the need to dismount to enter buildings (a legitimate disadvantage that is used in only two games in the entire series). These classes are so strong that some players use cavaliers almost exclusively for their combat needs.
    • Another class with issues in that regard is the Wyvern Rider. It's meant to be an alternative to the Fragile Speedster Pegasus Knight, trading off Resistance and some of its Speed for Strength, HP, and Defense. Only they still have enough Speed to double most foes, and the fact that they have higher Strength means they do a lot more damage when doubling, turning them into monstrously powerful Lightning Bruiser characters. High Defense means bows and ballistas are suddenly way less of a threat, meaning the Wyvern Rider is a lot freer on where they can go. On the other hand, low Resistance doesn't tend to be a problem when enemies that hit Resistance are rare, and pretty much everything that isn't a magic unit or a Pegasus Knight has bad Resistance anyway. On top of that, they can fly, which means they're mobile, ignore terrain, and can just fly around the rare magic enemies or even blitz and kill them before they can react. Many of the franchise's most overpowered units either start out on a wyvern (Haar, Melady, Jill, Camilla) or find themselves on one before long (Caeda, Vanessa, Palla), and tend to be held back only by their tendency to join around the midgame. In games where you can get people to reclass, Character Tiers tend to devolve into "can you become a Wyvern Rider, and if so, how much work does it take to turn you into one?" Even in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, where Edelgard and Dimitri get Purposefully Overpowered promoted Lord classes that are unique to them, a lot of players still end up sticking them on a wyvern by the endgame because the class is that useful.
    • The recurring Jagen Archetype in the series suffers badly from this. These characters start out promoted with high base stats, and are supposed to become weaker as the game progresses due to their low growth rates. The idea is for them to help the lower-levelled party members through the early chapters, and be benched once they're no longer needed. Over-reliance on them is supposed to result in the rest of your army being too weak to handle the late-game. However, players eventually realized that most Jagens have just high enough bases to solo the vast majority of the game, and enemies are weak enough that the Jagen only needs to gain one or two extra stat points to keep up with them, something that's very likely even with low growth rates. They also generally start in the extremely powerful Paladin class mentioned above, and with weapons other characters won't be able to use for a long time. Conversely, there's usually at least one starting unit who isn't worth training due to a bad class or bad stats, so not bothering with them isn't a big deal. What's more, you gain additional units throughout the game, and those characters tend to be competent at base-level, so you really just switch from relying on your Jagen to relying on the guys who just joined. On top of that, XP gain in Fire Emblem scales down as your troops get stronger, so chances are, letting Jagens kill enemies in the mid-late game is probably going to mean missing out on about 10 XP. As a result, Jagens tend to place strongly on efficiency Character Tiers while those who were supposed to surpass them are brushed aside.
    • Related, growth rates in general fall under Skill Overestimated. Most FE characters fall into one of two categories: high base stats but low growth rates, or the opposite. In practice, the latter category suffers from several issues. Firstly, stat growths in Fire Emblem are random, so even a character with high growth rates might end up with bad stats by the end of the game if you're unlucky. Those with high base stats are reliably strong regardless of luck. Second, those with low base stats have a hard time killing enemies and levelling up to begin with. Third, the series loves giving you Magikarp Power characters very late into the game, where levelling them up is a major hassle. Fourth, most enemies have low enough stats that Magikarp Power isn't even necessary. Finally, "high growths" doesn't actually equal as much as you'd think; a 10% greater growth is really just an average of one extra point over the course of ten levels, in a game where the cap is 40. As time went on, the more "hardcore" players began to only care about base stats and often ignore growth rates entirely—in fact, there are runs out there that disable stat growth and still often beat the game.
    • A microcosm of this problem with growth units can be found in the trainee units of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. Ross, Amelia, and Ewan all start off with absolute bottom-of-the-barrel stats, but they also have the special "trainee" class, and upon hitting 10th level, they can promote into level 1 of a more typical class like Cavalier or Mage. Effectively, this gives them ten extra levels to grow, plus what's effectively a second set of promotion bonuses, so in theory, this turns them into powerhouses once levelled fully. The thing is, all three characters also have bad growths, so even when given their first promotion, their stats look less like those of a level 10 unit and more like those of an above-average level 1 unit, putting them far behind the rest of the army. Having an extra ten levels to play with doesn't really matter when most games where you don't abuse Level Grinding tend to end with the cast 5-10 levels away from the cap anyway, and in "Creature Campaign", you can just buy statboosters to make growths totally irrelevant. The result is that Ross is prized more for being the game's only water-walker for a while than for his growths, while Amelia and Ewan are usually consigned to the bench.
    • Armor Knights have historically suffered from this. Pretty basic on paper: a Mighty Glacier with slow movement and speed, but great defenses and attacking power. The problem is that bad speed means that the Armor Knight can't dodge and can get doubled easily, meaning they take more damage, and they can't double easily either, so they deal less damage. Also, since they have less movement, that means they either have to lag behind the rest of your army or you have to dedicate a trooper specifically to carry them around. And if they're lagging behind, that means they aren't fighting, meaning they don't get XP and, in both senses of the word, Can't Catch Up. Before long, their durability gets outstripped by units that have gotten some Level Grinding in and the Armor Knight becomes dead weight. This is even more pronounced in games that lack Hold the Line-style maps, which patches the Armor Knight's weakness by making enemies come to them. Later games tend to have any recruitable Armor Knights start with a level lead over their companions specifically to ward off that problem.
    • To a lesser extent, Myrmidons tend to deal with this quite a bit. They are a Fragile Speedster class, one that trades off raw hitting power and defense for greater evasiveness and accuracy and being able to double more enemies compared to the more well-balanced Mercenary. But the thing is, they use swords, which also trade off damage for accuracy, so most of the time, that high Skill is total overkill. Enemies early on tend to be really slow and enemies later on tend to wield heavy weapons, so the threshold to double most enemies is often quite low. Meanwhile, Myrmidons have comparatively low damage, so when other characters start doubling, they become reliant on crits to kill enemies. Thankfully, their promoted class of Swordmaster provides them with a boost to criticals, but this comes at the cost of being locked to swords when Paladins and Heroes can use other weapons, including ones that hit harder and have better range than swords, so they don't even need crits to kill things and can handle situations the Swordmaster can't. Most of the time, a Myrmidon's focus becomes basically irrelevant because the things they do—wield swords, double and dodge reliably, and kill enemies in a single turn through crits—can be done by just about anybody once they've started outleveling the enemy. Tellingly, one of the only Myrmidons to break this trend is Rutger, who is in a game where enemies with high dodge rates are much more common, and consequently is considered very good.
    • A basic example of this is the weapon triangle. Swords beat axes, which beat lances, which beat swords. Simple enough... except this is only really balanced if the enemies also use swords, lances, and axes in roughly equivalent variety. Instead, pretty much every game will have at least one weapon in far fewer or far greater numbers among the game's enemies, leading to units with one weapon type either dominating the others or fighting an uphill battle for relevance. In games with a fondness for lance-wielders, this even screws over the resident Lord, who is usually locked into swords until their promotion.
    • In plenty of older titles, enemy strength simply didn't increase at the same level as unit strength, meaning pretty much any character when properly trained was capable of dodging or tanking hits from every standard enemy with no damage, and then doubling them on the counterattack and murdering them with a base-level weapon. This turns it into Everybody's Cheap, where the things that matter most by the endgame are how many enemies a character can murder per turn when they've reached this god-slaying state, and how quickly they can ascend to it. This also reinforces a lot of the above balance issues, as archers tend to struggle with the first while Magikarp Power units struggle with the second.
    • For a character-specific example, look no further than Reinhardt in Fire Emblem Heroes. His tome, Dire Thunder, allows him to strike twice, the same as Brave weapons. Like them, this is in theory balanced by his low speed (plus a further debuff just from holding the tome), meaning that he will only ever hit twice, while the opponents he faces will have enough speed that they can double him easily. So with both sides being able to hit twice, Reinhardt should be fine, right? The problem is that since he's a cavalry unit, he has massive range on the battlefield, which is only increased further since he wields magic. When you have the ability to ride over to your opponent from outside their range and kill them before they can react, you don't tend to worry about your speed. As a sign of how useful Reinhardt is, his sister, Olwen, has the exact same weapon as him but much higher speed (an average of 34 without the debuff from Dire Thunder), yet since she has lower Attack she's very rarely seen or considered to be a threat.
  • Fire Emblem's Spiritual Successor by its original creator, TearRing Saga, completely inverts the typical Magikarp Power problem with Narron. He's supposed to start out weak but have good payoff when trained, but the problem is he joins in only the second chapter, with Paragon, and with base stats only slightly worse than your other two Cavaliers. (Who, unlike in typical FE games, are mediocre at best) It's not hard to get him to promotable level very early, and you get a Knight's Crest in the very next chapter to make this even easier. Upon becoming a Gold Knight, Narron gains absolutely ridiculous promotion gains (+6 to Strength and +7 to Skill and Speed, in a game where a promotion gain of +3 is considered fantastic), which alone are enough to carry him through most of the game, all while Paragon causes him to keep snowballing. He also gains several extremely good skills on promotion. Overall Narron is one of the rare Magikarp Power characters to dominate efficiency tierlists, as training him is nowhere near as difficult as the developers intended and the payoff is a total Game-Breaker available very early.
  • Advance Wars:
    • The series tried its hardest to balance characters, but certain COs are just undeniably superior. Max and Eagle both have some powerful units at the cost of other weak unitsnote , but the fact of the matter is you simply don't need to use the weak units (You'll rarely ever use naval units to begin with). Other COs like Kanbei and Colinnote  are thoroughly broken because their strengths are easily exploited to far outweigh their weaknesses. On the other end of the tier, COs like Andynote  and Sonjanote  are just not worth using. As the series went on attempts were made to balance them out betternote  but it wasn't quite enough to fully even the odds.
    • There's a general Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors system, and it mostly works—copter beats tank, tank beats anti-air, anti-air beats copter—but breaks down when dealing with naval units. The intended pattern is that battleships are powerful, but can be taken down by bombers and copters and can't shoot them back, but cruisers can take down bombers and copters, so cruisers have the job of escorting battleships. Except that bombers and copters can still deal very heavy damage to cruisers (on fair ground, a copter can take out about half their health while a bomber brings them down to almost nothing), and because they have greater movement speed and can fly, they'll pretty much always be able to hit the cruisers first, and once they've gotten their licks in, the cruisers are probably too heavily-damaged to fight back. Not to mention, it takes a lot more more money to build a cruiser than it does to build a copter. Because of this, a flight of bombers and copters can effortlessly decimate any naval force that doesn't have fighter screening. This also makes Drake, who trades off strong ships for weak aircraft, a lot less effective than he should be.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • In Mercenaries 2, you can regenerate health. The developers decided that to balance this out, everyone in the goddamn world gets a rocket launcher. Vehicles have tissue paper for armor, too, so it's not as if you'll find much sanctuary from all that rocket and tank fire. Nine Ten times out of ten, when explosives are flying, they're flying at you. Not even freakin' Wolverine could survive this crap!
    • This is a problem in Red Faction: Guerilla and [PROTOTYPE], too, but it's not as bad in the former and makes sense in the later.
    • Call of Duty, again, has this problem as well. United Offensive decided to up the challenge present in the base game - by lessening how often dead enemies will drop medkits when you're injured and giving the Germans that didn't already have the MP40 to shred you in close range a new, incredibly powerful semi-auto rifle that lets them shred you at any distance. Your only chance of survival is letting your AI teammates do all the fighting, because if you try to do anything, you will lose half your health in one shot and most likely will not be able to replenish a single bit of it afterwards. Call of Duty 2 switched to Regenerating Health - and now you're forced to run right up towards enemy tanks and stand up in front of enemy machine-gunners (things real soldiers in real wars very quickly learn not to do if they want to live more than fifteen seconds) every fifteen seconds to balance it out.
      • Regenerating health has caused a lot of this in modern games, where developers design the game around the idea that the player has effectively infinite health, often without taking into account the fact that the player needs time where they're not getting injured for that regeneration to kick in. Battlefield: Bad Company is another good example, since its draw is destructible cover, combined with everyone getting explosives or the game straight-up making you suicide rush heavy vehicles at times - if you're injured enough that you have to hide and heal in this game, you're basically already dead.
  • In Grand Theft Auto V Online, the player is given the ability to carry additional armor vests and snacks to eat in firefights to help keep them going. So, of course, the armor is about as sturdy as wet cardboard, and Conservation of Ninjutsu is drop-kicked out the window as enemy NPCs have tank plating for armor.
    • The Heists Update added Adversary modes, in which a team of Hunters or Attackers with infinite lives hunt down Runners or Defenders with only one life each. Three of these modes give the alleged prey gross advantages.
      • In Come Out to Play, the Hunters are put onto motorcycles which they must be on at all times, wielding only the sawed-off shotgun. Meanwhile, the Runners get highly-accurate assault rifles and machine guns which can automatically lock on to the Hunters, whose shotguns don't get the same pleasure, not to mention that it's impossible to aim any gun in a vehicle, unless you stop, which just makes you a sitting duck.
      • Siege Mentality, in which the Attackers are once again restricted to sawed-off shotguns, but the Defenders are given heavy weapons. The Defenders are restricted to a certain area, but the area is typically rich in cover, giving the Defenders a place to shoot the Attackers dead over and over with impunity.
      • In Hasta la Vista, no one has weapons. The Runners are on bicycles, running from Hunters driving semi trucks. The trucks are faster but the bikes are more agile theoretically allowing them to dodge the trucks, however the environment and the availability of obstacles is a much bigger factor: Off-road in the woods? Just slalom around a tree or pedal across a river and watch the truck struggle to follow. Going through a long straight tunnel? Have fun getting smooshed against the wall.

    Other videogame genres 
  • Aircraft types in Ace Combat Infinity. Fighters deal increased damage against and acquire locks faster on air targets but suffer penalties to damage and lock-on speed for ground and sea targets, Attackers are the other way around (Bombers going even further, so much that they don't get air-to-air weapons), and Multiroles have neither a bonus nor a penalty. So far so good, but Multiroles also have a noticeably higher amount of slots for performance-enhancing parts, allowing players to specialize them for either role while keeping respectable performance in the other role, or even simply upgrade their effectiveness at both roles. Combined with the mostly unpredictable variations in enemy targets in the missions and the fact that upgrading one Multirole is far cheaper than dumping cash on both a Fighter and an Attacker, it's no surprise that they're the most used aircraft type. Later updates have done something to alleviate this, however. Later-added maps have been more biased towards one type of target rather than a near-perfect mix that gives Multiroles the advantage, such as Area B7R being entirely fighter-based, or Adriatic Sea offering primarily ground targets with only a small handful of fighters and helicopters. Regular Team Deathmatch gives the advantage to Fighters, since obviously everyone is flying aircraft of some variety, with Multiroles' only advantage being a niche role of protecting allies with the ECM, and Attackers being useless (even with a part only they can use in TDM modes that interferes with missile homing upgrades applied to anyone that fires at them - being untouchable doesn't help much when you invariably can't touch the enemy either). Naval Fleet Assault, meanwhile, lets any type shine. Fighters still obviously have the advantage against the opposing players, and while the Kill Streak system allows that to go quite a ways towards victory (with every possible bonus for making kills allowing up to half of the enemy fleet's total health to be taken away), that alone won't win the battle. Attackers and Bombers, as expected, are likewise near-useless against enemy planes, but their hard-hitting air-to-ground weapons do a lot of damage to the enemy fleet (so much so that a Bomber that gets shot down after a single pass on the enemy fleet every time can still end up as MVP simply because it hits hard enough that those single shots counted for a lot). Multiroles still don't have any specific advantages, but they don't have any disadvantages - one with a good pilot who's poured a lot of money into upgrading and tuning it can switch roles on the fly to pick up the slack and still accomplish just as much overall as a single-role craft.
  • Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction only has single player campaign, but that doesn't mean it's not susceptible to balance problems. Difficulty in order goes from Aliens (pathetically easy), Marines (somewhat easy), and Predators (Nintendo Hard), and for several reasons.
    • Aliens are ridiculously powerful. They only have to spend points to create units once (assuming the Queen never needs to fight), and their unit cap is incredibly large (as expected from a race of zerg rushers). The fact that every unit only costs one supply only allows then to get even more numbers.
    • The Aliens' weaknesses are two things. One, they lack ranged units. However, most of their units can easily close the gaps between units, and their only ranged unit is one of the most useful aliens in the game, the worker alien, solely because anyone they hit after upgraded will create more powerful aliens. Their second weakness is that if they don't win battles early on, they'll be pretty weak. This doesn't necessarily mean battles against the other factions. If they have easy access to scientists or, worse, respawnable critters, they will have no problems with creating a stupidly large army.
  • In Guardians of Middle-Earth, Agandaûr would fit the unbalanced skillset category. His ultimate ability is an enormous shockwave that can kill most enemy guardians in one hit in a game where most characters are meant to be able to throw all their skills at each other and still survive. This is supposed to be balanced by the fact that his other skills are weaker, his ultimate can be interrupted by crowd control effects, and Agandaûr has a poor health pool. However, if you can kill everyone near you extremely fast, it doesn't matter how poor your health is if everyone else is dead, and the fact that his other skills are weaker is offset by the fact that the shockwave has a cooldown of less than 30 seconds, making it regenerate faster than the respawn time.
  • Ludia's video game adaptation of the Game Show Press Your Luck often has the AI opponents answer even the most basic of questions (e.g. "How much is 6 times 4?") wrong so that they rarely have more spins than the actual player.
  • In the BBC Micro game Ravenskull, you can play as one of four characters, but there is no difference in gameplay. The PC remake gives each of the four a different power. However, the warrior's power (ravenbees drain health instead of killing you instantly) is very poorly balanced; you lose health for every ten squares travelled, and the levels are long enough that you never have much to spare. One hit from a ravenbee and you're probably doomed anyway.
  • In Saint Seiya: Sanctuary Battle, literally the only thing that defines how good or bad a character is is his projectile attack. During the stages with waves of soldiers, projectiles deal huge amounts of damage, hit enemies multiple times due to pushing them forward as the projectile moves on, and go through almost everything, destroying breakable objects and revealing items, killing entire squads with a single button press while the player is safe, so the player can clear missions and stages lightning fast taking low damage and dealing tons of punishment, making getting high ranks trivial. Bosses, in the other hand, have hyperguard active 90% of the time and more often than not their deadliest skills are the short-range ones or create minefields around themselves. Melee characters have to approach with caution while looking at the scarce moments they have their guard open, while anyone with a good projectile can keep away, wait for an opening, activate 7th Sense and fire off their energy beams for safe and powerful blows.
  • Warframe features a few examples, but none so extreme as the Tonkor. At release, the Tonkor was advertised as a weapon designed for grenade-jumping, a la the Demoman from Team Fortress 2; previous explosive weapons had been tempered by the potential for users to kill themselves via splash damage, but in order to facilitate this unique mechanic, the developers capped the Tonkor's self-damage at a fixed 50 points (low enough to be negligible most of the time). In exchange, it came with low ammo reserves and a tiny magazine, even among its fellow launchers, and a relatively low reload speed punished missed shots; compared to its direct competitor, the Penta, it also suffered a small penalty to base damage and lost the ability to manually detonate its grenades. Unfortunately, the developers made two fatal miscalculations: the negligible self-damage made the weapon much safer in close quarters, which are vastly over-represented in the game's tilesets, and it featured very high crit stats, which let it deal 5.5 times its normal damage seven shots out of eight if properly modded. The end result? A devastating crowd-clearer with little-to-no skill required for use. It is likely because of this (and grenade jumping being obsolete) that it got nerfed in the weapon balance patch
  • The manual of Wing Commander Armada makes a point to mention Fedcom ships have better shields while Kiralthi ships have better hulls. The obvious problem with this is that shields regenerates and hull doesn't.
  • Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker has a few examples. The game balance is pretty good for the most part, but a few moves and concepts throw this out the window. The best one would Planetary Destruction, an assault ultimate learned from Pain. It's only real weakness is that the user is forced to stand still while using it, with its best use being at grouped up enemies. There is no warning that it's about to happen, unlike the similar ultimate Kirin, it deals heavy damage to the point of one shotting healers and ranged at full health, and sucks in nearby enemies around the target. Given that bases and capture the flag both work best when the team is huddled, plus combat situations where it's easy to group up, this ultimate really is absurd compared to the rest. Feather Illusion for the medic is similar with the same weak, but it's only a wide ranged stun that resets all cooldowns meaning you still require a team to do anything meaningful with it.
    • Ninja tools are not balanced out. The starting tools are ok, each class besides has a kuni, or ranged have the slightly better senbon as kunai throwing is part of their moveset, which can harass and intterupt and you can carry 4, a specialized tool such as healing tags for medics or smoke bombs for offense. Once you've played a class enough you'll unlock their other specialty ninja tool, and all except the healer's are a bit too good to be pulling out of thin air. Assult's is a stunning kunai which works for a short period but is long enough to close the gap to get into melee range or another popular use is chaining from one aerial melee combo to another by hitting them after the finisher, leaving the victim helpless without a substitution. Ranged has a fumi shurikin which is large and has incredible knockback and can chain hits to send enemies flying away from an objective if aimed right, so they can force you away without using any ninjustu or just cheaply displace you from an objective with little risk. Defenders have explosive bombs that they can throw that causes knockback, much like ranged, that they can pull out quickly, allowing them to easily force you off before you get close to them without even pausing for more than a second. The healer's is a throwable that slows down enemies, which is useful and has the kunai's flinch but only 2 uses, and while useful compared to the others and their multitude of uses looks just lame.
  • Yakuza 0 features an extensive hostess club management side-mission, and out of all the hostesses available, Chizu is easily one of the worst. While theoretically her abysmal stats are balanced out by an obscene amount of HP for her level, the reality is that unless you're in a rival battle with a club that can drain your hostesses' HP, there's plenty of opportunities to replenish HP, so the huge HP bonus does nothing to offset the fact that even in the starter area, you'll be lucky to find a customer who doesn't outright hate her.

Other Examples:

    Card Games 
  • An ongoing issue for Magic: The Gathering since its very inception. To note:
    • "Balance by Rarity" was the initial plan for the series. When the game was first released, it was known that cards such as Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Timetwister, and the Moxes were game-breakingly powerful if present in sufficient quantities. However, they believed that since most players would only buy a starter deck and a couple of boosters, their power would never become an issue. This is especially evident when you look at the initial deck construction rules: 40-card minimum for decks, and no maximum for any individual cards. The deck of nothing but Black Lotus/Channel/Fireball was 100% legal, and that's not even the most powerful deck you could build. Constructed tournament later evolved to have a 60 card minimum limit and a maximum of 4 individual non-land cards, thus effectively removing the fake balance.
    • Modern Magic still has balance by rarity as a rarity level above rare, called mythic rare, was added in the Shards of Alara expansion. It should be noted that rarity balance exists in limited formats, such as booster draft and sealed deck, where certain powerful cards could easily help the player to win but they may well not get one of these cards, let alone multiple copies, but does not exist in constructed play where people will spend whatever it takes to win.
    • In limited formats, there is the BREAD principle, which describes what card to draft - Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Advantage, and Dregs. While Removal, Evasion, Advantage, and Dregs cards are available in every rarity, Bombs are usually in the rare slot. A deck with a good amount of bomb and removal cards usually has a considerable upper hand. Whether a player obtained those cards by luck or by skills is something that is often discussed in MTG boards. Large amounts of removal can make up for a lack of bombs by ensuring you can always get rid of whatever overpowering creature is thrown out by your opponent. The greatest of bombs tend to be cards which are immune to removal, either non-creatures which thus naturally evade anti-creature removal spells, creatures which are somehow immune to removal due to protection, shroud, regeneration, or similar effects, or bombs which act as removal themselves. On occasion, some uncommons can be bombs as well, the most common example being spells which deal X damage to target creature or player, making them both removal and potentially capable of finishing off an opponent in the late game out of nowhere; Fireball is perhaps the most infamous such example, due to its ability to split up its damage, allowing it to act as mass removal as well.
    • A cause of "Situational Advantage" also frequently arises. As cards "rotate" (new ones are printed, older made illegal in most common formats) for a good portion of environments, there will arise one or two "tier 1" decks that prompt development of counter-decks aimed to specifically hurt those dominants. Said rogue decks are less powerful overall, so any (semicompetent) deck but the dominant actually has a good chance against it - but will likely fall to the tier 1. The resulting rock-paper-scissors deck choice process is known as metagaming.
    • The "Luck-Based" balance gets a bit worse when one considers cards like Enlightened Tutor, which lets you reshuffle your deck, with the artifact or enchantment of your choice on top. When you consider that many of the big game breakers are artifacts or enchantments, and Enlightened Tutor costs one white mana and can be played just before you draw, yeah. Enlightened Tutor, by the way, is legal in Legacy.
    • Early MTG was characterized by overestimating the power of creatures. Because, naturally, you had to kill people with creatures, it was assumed they would be the dominant force in the card game. Because of this, creatures were relatively overcosted, meaning that in the earliest "fair" tournaments (that is, cards printed with "organized card game" as opposed to "limited product experiment" in mind), "control" decks, which featured heavy counter-spells and removal, all of which cost much less mana than the creatures they destroyed, dominated the game.
    • Another infamous case of "Underestimated Power" occurred when players realized that no matter how much life they lost, they could still win as long as they didn't hit 0. Enter Necropotence. When they designed this card, they thought that players would value their each life point they had and was expected that you'd balance out the life loss with life-gaining cards, never overuse them. Players, on the other hand, realized that 1 life for 1 card is a hilariously good trade, especially since you could use Necropotence's ability indefinitely and draw an obscene amount of cards, digging out complex combos whose lack of consistency (due to needing to draw them one by one) was their only real flaw. Wizards has since learned from this and any subsequent cards that gave you draws had either obscene mana costs, required some other cost (such as sacrificing creatures), or could only give you one extra card per turn. Life payments in general has seen a massive decrease in the stuff they allow you to do, as any effect that is triggered by them is also usually tied to some other cost (mana, sacrifices, or discards) or generally are not that game-changing.
    • The power of drawing cards and free mana were also comically "Underestimated" in early game design. For Drawing, Wizards originally released a cycle (a set of 5 cards with an overarching theme across all five colors) called "boons" that granted you 3 things for the cost of 1 mana. The blue one gave you 3 draws while the others only did damage, buff creatures, a little extra mana, or gave life. To this day, Ancestral Recall (the blue boon) remains the only one to have never been reprinted and is part of the infamous Power Nine. As for free mana, the most well known example is the Black Lotus, but even attempts at balancing it have been met with failure; Lion's Eye Diamond, a heavily Nerfed version of the Black Lotus that was considered completely unusable due to making you discard your entire hand, was still heavily restricted in the formats where it was legal. Wizards has since given up trying to make a balanced version of the thing.
    • As a color, Blue was fairly notorious for this in the game's first few blocks. In the overall color wheel, Blue is meant to represent the more oddball and strategically-oriented cards, as well as a few general tricks that fit its focus on control and passive play. In practice, this meant that Blue had a surfeit of two of the biggest above bullet points: drawing lots of cards, and spells that could counter the opponent's strategy. And since Blue was meant to be the one that was all about "strange and experimental" abilities, that meant Blue got all the cards with weird effects that turned out to be incredibly abuseable. Its supposed lack of aggressiveness was countered by the fact that Blue was so good at building up resources that it could quickly overpower anything the opponent threw at it. In fact, it was often noted by other players that Blue could often essentially do the supposed strategies of other colors better than those other colors: for instance, generating lots of mana is supposed to be Green's thing, but don't tell that to High Tide. Once that reached critical mass in the "Combo Winter" era, the developers had to spend most of the 2000s trying to clamp down on Blue's power.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game is also famous for the same reason as Magic: The Gathering at game balance. Many of the most powerful cards were not only Game-Breaker cards, they were considered "rare", with some others being “Secret rares” that would never ever be encountered by the average player. Now here's what creates the fake balance… after a while, you could buy tins with most of those secret rare cards in there.
    • Even later still, many of those cards will probably be found as Commons in preconstructed decks or compilation sets, thus devaluing the originals by several degrees. Yu-Gi-Oh! is not kind to the secondary market...
    • Some of the original cards have been banned from tournaments such as Monster Reborn (which alternates being banned with Call of the Haunted for some bizarre reason), Witch of the Black Forest, Pot of Greed and Change of Heart because they lack a 'cost' for using them and can potentially help you get powerful monsters early on, making it seem like they are just creating a balance. However, most of the new powerful monsters have effects that either: prevent destruction; allow them to be brought back; or simply prevent them being targeted by spells, traps or effects while also having 2000 or higher ATTACK, making most stronger than the original strong monsters. Plus they are also easy to summon usually and very few of these monsters have damaging effects for the owner of the card. Also, if you do not have the specific type of deck with just the right countermeasures against the one you are facing, then you can be screwed from the very beginning of the duel.
    • This trope might be one of the reasons why Apoqliphort Towers were banned. On paper, it's a card that requires three tributes and Qli monsters at that. Unfortunately, the Qli monsters prided themselves on swarming to get out the towers; and then when it came out, it was immune to everything and couldn't be destroyed by ANYTHING without a LEVEL OR RANK lower than its level. The towers are level 10. There are hardly any level 10 or rank 10 monsters in the meta as is. There are hardly any level 10 boss monsters or rank 10 monsters that exist out of a deck specifically made to get them out. Basically, whenever this card came out; many decks were stuck in a deadlock and there was no answer made against it without a deck made to specifically counter it; so it was banned.
    • The Evilswarm/Verz deck demonstrated both Unbalanced Moveset and Situational Advantage. Evilswarms had about four or five worthwhile Main Deck cards, but nothing was forcing you to use anything besides those four or five cards - cue lots of decks that were "3 Heliotrope, 3 Kerykion, 3 Castor, 3 Mandragora, 3 Thunderbird". It also featured Evilswarm Ophion, a very easy-to-summon card that locked out the opponent from Special Summoning anything above Level 5 - completely meaningless to Rank 4 or lower XYZ-based decks, but debilitating to Synchros, Fusions, most non-Extra Deck users, and higher-Ranked decks. This meant that Evilswarms would either almost always win or usually lose, depending solely on your choice of summoning type.
    • GX was full of Overestimated Ability, with the Neo-Spacians being probably the worst case of it. Fusing with monsters on the field without a specific Fusion card was an interesting idea... but make the required monsters either weak or weak and hard to summon, give the archetype no real way of resolving this, make the Fusion unimpressive in its own right and not much better than its components, and make the Fusion dependent on a Field Spell to not vanish at the end of your turn, and you have an archetype that really stacked up poorly to its hype. Many Awesome, but Impractical boss monsters also became this.
    • Luck-Based Balance is kind of to be expected, considering it's a card game and therefore reliant on drawing shuffled cards, but certain cards press this even further. Most gamble-based cards are silly, fun, and underpowered, but Sixth Sense (pick two numbers, roll a die, if the die hits one of those numbers you draw that many cards) was a notorious one, as it basically meant a one-in-three chance to draw five or six cards, more than enough for any deck to win the game afterward. Pot of Desires (banish ten cards from your deck, draw two cards) is the biggest current offender, since the cards it banishes are random - entire games have been decided on whether someone banished a vital card they were planning to search or not.
    • OTK/FTK decks combine the above with Fragile Advantage. They're generally reliant on being able to pull off a specific combo that wins in a single turn. If they can't pull off that combo, they crumble in no time flat because of Crippling Overspecialization. Consequently, most of whether they win or not is reliant on whether they can draw the right cards to set it up.
    • Skill-Based Advantage is shown quite frequently in Synchro or Link-heavy decks, where you need to be able to commit to memory dozens of different plays and carefully manage the levels and arrangements of your monsters to do anything particularly impressive. Pull it off, though, and you usually wind up with an unbreakable field and five or six negation cards on board, resulting in incredibly long duels that still only last three turns at most.
    • And Counterplay-Based Balance is swiftly becoming a worry, as more and more cards come out with some sort of protection effect. For instance, initially monsters had few protection effects and were easily destroyed by targeting destruction. Then monsters immune to destruction came out, and were unstoppable, then players found targeting removal cards. Then monsters immune to targeting and destruction came out, and were unstoppable, then players found non-targeting removal cards. The current status is with monsters that are flat-out immune to all card effects, resulting in the Kaiju archetype, which tributes monsters from the opponent's field as part of their summoning condition (which is not an effect). And now, some players run the sixteen-year-old card Mask of Restrict to stop Tributes...
    • For most of the Arc-V era, there was an attempt to give roughly equal support to Xyz, Fusions, and Synchros, with Pendulums being intended as support for the group as a whole. The problem is, Xyz's requirements (two monsters of the same level) happen to be far more flexible than Fusion (two specific monsters and a card to fuse them) or Synchro (one specific monster and another one or two with the right levels), meaning they can be used in almost any Deck while Fusion and Synchro require specific support. Even Fusion or Synchro-focused decks, such as ABCs, frequently leaned heavily on an Xyz engine, because they were just that much easier to bring out. In addition, Pendulums happen to be much more helpful to Xyz playstyle, since most Xyz are based around having a small number of mid-level monsters on the field, which is what Pendulum is designed to do (most Fusion decks get nothing out of having their materials on the field, and most Synchro decks rely on bringing out monsters too low-level to be easily Pendulumed). Xyz also have the native advantage of being immune to Level-based effects, and their supposed "downside" of only being able to activate their effects a few times was mostly used to justify giving them better effects than their counterparts, in a game where they would usually only use their effects once anyway. To cap it off, Xyz have access to a much more extensive toolbox, since any two Level 4s can turn into any Rank 4, while other archetypes usually have only one or two cards they can easily call out in a given situation. The result was that the Arc-V era was mostly dominated by Xyz-focused decks or Pendulum-focused decks that mostly used Xyz, with Fusions and Synchros only achieving intermittent fame in the form of specific archetypes or slumming as rogue decks before being swiftly banned. It's probably why the VRAINS era seems to have ditched any idea of balancing the group, and just made Link monsters strictly better than their counterparts.
    • "Floodgate" cards, which restrict the actions of both players, have been a recurring case of Underestimated Ability. The idea is that they're balanced because both players suffer from them, and usually, the person who uses them has to pay a cost (for instance, Royal Oppression's LP cost). The intent is that a player design their deck to not be impeded much (or even benefit) by having the floodgate up, which often meant weakening it significantly. The problem was, the player also usually has the ability to choose when the floodgate goes up, meaning they can just activate it when they've already played all their cards and they're ahead, and make it impossible for the opponent to catch up. It should not be a surprise that the majority of powerful floodgates have spent time on the banlist.
    • Particularly in its early days, the game had a habit of Overestimating direct-damage "burn" cards. The intended use seemed to be something like Magic's direct-damage cards, combining them with regular attacks to knock chunks out of an opponent's LP. But when you start with a ridiculously favorable 8000 LP and the best single-shot burn cards do 1000 at most, wasting a card to do less damage than a monster usually would by attacking was a horrible idea. It didn't help when cards from the anime (where LP is generally 4000) with burn effects were translated into the game, and then became not worth the paper they were printed on. However, whenever players could find ways to spam burn effects, the effects became Underestimated, as a player could drain the opponent's LP in a single turn - and since this wasn't part of the Battle Phase, this could be done on the first turn, before the opponent could react. As a result, burn effects hold a notorious position in the fanbase - they're either broken, or nearly useless, and since they don't really interact with traditional play, they tend to be unfun either way.
    • "Comeback"-related cards, such as Utopia Ray, Draw of Destiny, or Goddess of Sweet Revenge, have degraded into this. The ability to deal major-league damage or pull off impressive effects in exchange for being in a bad situation certainly sounds impressive, and it is... but because of how fast the game is, it's very rare that you'll be in a situation where you can use them. The time at which the game degrades from "you cannot use this card because you are in a good situation" to "you have lost" doesn't often leave a window for you to use your awesome comeback card.
  • In the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, (almost) all cards have a "Destiny" value in the top right corner. During just about any type of confrontation (aiming a weapon, resolving a battle, holding a lightsaber duel, attacking the Death Star's exhaust port), one or both players were allowed to draw the top card of their deck and add its Destiny value to whatever total they had previously. The rationale was to allow The Force (read: luck) to affect the outcome, and since the Force is always with the underdog, common / weak cards always came with high Destiny values. Unfortunately, the strong cards were often so powerful that they were essentially immune to the effects of Destiny, so, in the end, it didn't work.
  • Hearthstone isn't generally considered a "serious competitive" CCG, with the massive number of RNG-based effects making it clearly more of a "for fun" game, so people are generally more easy-going on its balance deficiencies. Additionally, the game is much younger than its aforementioned competitors, so it at least makes sense for the creators to screw up every now and then. Not that it's gonna stop us from listing notable screw-ups:
    • The reason why Blackrock Mountain and The Grand Tournament were so hated is partially because of this trope. Blizzard massively overestimated the power level of most of the cards from these sets due to the sheer power of the sets that came before them, and in the end a total of maybe 20 cards between the two ended up being used - and even then, only Emperor Thaurissan, Grim Patron, Tuskarr Totemic, and Mysterious Challenger were good enough to be listed on the game's Game-Breaker page. Even with the introduction of rotations, the number wasn't bumped up by that much.
    • A major complaint about the game is how randomness is used as a balancing factor. While the idea is that it opens up design space for some cool new cards, in practice it leads to some frustrating coin-flip scenarios that leave at least one player flustered. In particular, Yogg-Saron was meant to be an incredibly goofy showstopper whose competitive viability was limited, but in a serious environment he ended up being outrageously overpowered because his randomness rarely actually hurt the person using him. A surprisingly swift nerf ended up turning him into the card he was supposed to be. There was also Barnes, a card of limited competitive use who was nonetheless despised because, despite his effect requiring the deck be built around him, he could slapped into just about anything in the hopes he cheesed out a win.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons had Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards from the get go, resulting in exactly what would be expected - wizards being really tough to get up to a decent level, but if they survived (and in a party, they would survive, especially in later iterations like 3rd edition) they were just broken. This was not specific to wizards; all full casters tended to be because they had abilities which simply didn't care about how many hit points enemies had, and which enemies had no defenses against - indeed, some even worked against enemies immune to magic because they did not directly affect them, and such difficulties could often be circumvented anyway by simply focusing on buffing yourself to godlike capabilities. This was fixed in 4th edition by greatly restricting what magic users were capable of as well as expanding what other characters could do, resulting in complaints by players who completely missed the point - that if a character can do everything there's no need for an adventuring party, or other classes.
    • 3.5 had this problem when they introduced a Magic Knight class, the Hexblade, and overestimated the usefulness of being able to cast spells in armor (there were already low-level spells which acted as superior substitutes to armor). As a result, the hexblade couldn't cast or fight very well. The designers basically admitted that they'd messed up, and their next attempt at the archetype (the duskblade) was much more balanced (A low tier 3 with tier 1 and 2 belonging to classes considered to have Game-Breaker stats). The opposite problem was the full caster classes, all of which completely shattered the game - most could turn themselves into better melee combatants than the actual melee combatant classes, and even worse, oftentimes that was pointless anyway because they could do even STRONGER things. High level full casters make the game utterly unplayable because they simply cannot be threatened effectively by anything which does not use similar tactics. This criticism of the game was termed as "rocket tag", as in, whoever hit with their rocket first won.
    • D&D is absolutely FULL of these. Physical defense, Base Attack Bonus, Hit Point damage from any source being aimed at an enemy, feats, mundane skills and many others were also grossly overvalued by the developers, leading to the characters that rely on these things being unable to contribute. One essay satirized the concept, postulating that, since classes with great but irrelevant chassis and lots of useless class features were generally pathetic, the Commoner, which has the worst chassis imaginable and no class features whatsoever, was the most powerful class in the game.
    • This is not helped by D&D's spell list being filled with options that an experienced player will notice work well, as opposed to things which sound awesome but really aren't that great in practice. At level 1, there's things like Color Spray and Entangle, spells which will remove groups of enemies from being able to contribute unless the enemy can succeed a difficult (for the level they're at) die roll. At level 5, you get such staples as Fireball and Lightning bolt. The problem is, Fireball is a much more effective spell than Lightning Bolt, because Fireball affects a 40-foot sphere and Lightning Bolt happens to go on a four-hundred foot straight line—cool, but enemies are more likely to take some sort of spread formation than single-file themselves. And this is just at the low levels. At high levels, you have Polar Ray (You get Fireball at level 5, it does damage to multiple targets. You get Polar Ray at level 15, it does slightly more damage to one target in less range and you have to hit the enemy to succeed) vs stuff like Plane Shift (normally used to move the party to one plane or another, including the various afterlives. A sub-use is to send an enemy to a plane of your choice. So you can literally send someone to Hell to remove them from combat). Ironically, the game works ''better' using the stronger effects, because monsters/other encounters tend to have them and if you tone down the casting classes, you'd better remember to tone down all many hundred of pages of monsters, too.
      • It's a 3.0 trend to simplify everything, even when this is missing the point. To go with the same example, AD&D2 has Lightning Bolt slightly shaped and ricocheting from the walls while chipping them — more useful than a Fireball unless in the open field, but tricky. In simplifying it to a straight line, it loses most of its utility, and is no longer as useful as Fireball.
      • Fake Balance exists in many cases because game designers could not predict the reliance on House Rules, since so few people play D&D strictly by the rules-as-written. Things that are balanced for level 1-5 characters using the elite array of stats suddenly stop being balanced when you jump right to level 10 with much higher stats. Player characters are much more powerful when they can spend vast starting wealth on any magic item in the books than if they have to get by with whatever random junk they find.
    • Wu Jens basically get free metamagic feats if their narrator plays them a certain way. (eg, unable to touch a dead body, cannot cut hair, cannot bathe...) However, some players often pick the taboos and set them to stuff the player or Wu Jen wouldn't even do in the first place! The basic problem with this is attempting to balance a "crunch" benefit against a "fluff" downside, which at best relies on the GM to make the downside exactly troublesome enough, and at worst is simply impossible.
    • Another example was AD&D 2nd Edition's Swashbuckler kit — in order to compensate for some bonuses when fighting in light armor and extra access to non weapon proficiencies, the DM was basically told to simply throw more trouble than their usual share the swashbuckler's way. So, not only would the character receive the kit benefits, they'd also get more time in the spotlight to help "balance" that... and chances were excellent that any "extra" trouble the swashbuckler ended up in would affect the rest of the party as well soon enough anyway.
    • One of the early flubs was rarity based balance as a counter to the Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards phenomenon. Certainly a high level wizard is much more powerful than a similarly-leveled fighter, but wizards are easily killed at low levels. Consequently, many more fighters survive to reach high levels than wizards. This makes a certain amount of sense in terms of world balance, but for an adventuring party likely to contain one wizard and one fighter, it doesn't help very much.
    • Another, related, form of Fake Balance was race based class level limits. Only humans could advance any class to any level; all demihuman races were not only limited in what classes they could choose, but every class had a level cap. In many cases, a very low one, lower than level 10. In theory, this was meant to balance the racial abilities of the demihumans, who received extra powers like nightvision and bonuses to saving throws; in turn, humans received unlimited growth potential. The problem was that level caps are only a limit if anybody reaches the cap. If the campaign never gets high enough level for caps to matter, then the caps don't balance anything. If a campaign does get to that high a level, however, that's the moment the character permanently ceases to be relevant. Either way, nothing is balanced. Worse, the designers vastly overvalued demihuman special abilities. Are they useful? Yes, every now and then, though in many cases (Detect Sloping Passages?) the DM has to deliberately construct the campaign to make them so. Are they worth being unable to advance past 9th level in a campaign that is going to reach that cap? Uh, NO!
    • Another odd form of overestimating the skill of players is overestimating the skills of the GM. A good GM will vary his combat encounters enough that some "gamebreaking" builds will realize they're really just suffering Crippling Overspecialization and haven't been forced outside of the player's comfort zone. He'll also test the player characters out of combat, forcing them to rely on skills and knowledge. Varying encounters greatly is one of the best ways to fight spammed attacks and minmaxed builds by exploiting their lack of versatility. As long as the Game Master is not a Killer Game Master who makes their players suffer, it's a good cure for Complacent Gaming Syndrome. However, some GMs just aren't that good at it, resulting in greatly unbalanced games because the players have no incentive to find new tricks and just reuse the same builds and powers.
      • The other problem lies in the fact that someone who is cripplingly overspecialized may be completely worthless outside of said specialization, meaning that the player gets bored as they are unable to contribute when the one thing they can do stupidly well becomes useless. To throw out an example, if a player builds a fighter and dumps all their mental and social stats to focus strictly on being a combat juggernaut, and the DM responds by forcing the fighter into social and noncombat situations, then this doesn't suddenly mean the fighter is enjoying the game. In fact, it's probably the opposite, since a player who designs a monstrously strong combat character probably likes when they fight enemies that push their min-maxed builds to the limit, not when they're essentially forced to fish for 20s in stuff they never trained in. Essentially, it ignores the fact that the goal of the game is to make sure the players have fun—part of being a good DM is making sure that specialized or twinked-out characters get moments to shine, because that's clearly what the players of those characters want to do.
    • There are many creatures which are designed to mess up non-casters, and there are some creatures (such as golems) which are designed to mess up casters. Unfortunately, casters are inherently better than non-casters, and flying creatures (which are quite common, and most casters can make themselves fly anyway) are very powerful against anyone without ranged attacks, which includes most non-casters (bows don't cut it, generally, unless you are a specialized bow user - in which case you have the weakness of "flying creatures can bypass my comrades and sit on top of me, rendering my bow useless"). The idea of many creatures with high spell resistance or outright immunity is to force casters to rely on their non-spell using compatriots. In reality, there are dozens of spells which allow them to bypass their foe's spell resistance and high saving throws entirely, such as spells that create barriers around them without actually affecting them directly (wall of stone gets bonus points for creating a permanent, nonmagical wall of stone, but wall of force and forcecage can create similar effects), a caster can polymorph themselves into some sort of dangerous monster to go eat their face or buff themselves to fight better than a fighter (and many such effects work better or exclusively on the caster themselves), they can collapse the ceiling or knock the floor out from under them, or fly into the air and shoot them from long range or simply bypass them entirely (many golems lack ranged attacks, can't fly, and have slow movement speeds), and do similar things. And even this is ignoring the fact that most of them can take feats to better bypass spell resistance and to make it harder to save against their spells.
    • And by a similar token, some players attempt to argue that the problem can be circumvented by the use of antimagic fields, which shut down all spells and magic items in their area. The problem is, antimagic fields are designed to be incredibly rare in most settings, stretching the belief that they could be a common problem (only a handful of monsters can use them, and though it's a spell, few wizards would cast it because it would shut them down), pretty much every class relies on magic abilities or magic items to some degree (paladin divine abilities, bardsong, fighter magic swords), casters can still often fight in antimagic fields (the druid's animal companion is totally unaffected, as are summoned or bound demons or crafted golems, not to mention animated undead from necromancers), and even if it did shut down a wizard entirely, only affected the wizard, and was common enough to prevent abuse, it wouldn't make the game fun, because now the wizard can't do anything.
    • This was also the case with cases where the character's power came from an external source that could be removed; most obviously, the wizard's spellbook. The clear intent with the spellbook was that it was a weak point, balancing them out next to characters like sorcerers that don't need them. But the thing is, most DMs don't target the spellbook, and for good reason: when the wizard doesn't have their spellbook, their combat contributions drop down to "can use a crossbow and not miss half the time", so it makes them utterly worthless, and due to the mechanics of creating a spellbook, it means a wizard would probably be doomed to spending multiple months in-game, along with a ton of gold, in rebuilding it. It's also very hard to justify actually targeting the spellbook from a story perspective, as it isn't very valuable to people aside from other wizards, and most of the time, if someone is in a position to steal it, they'd also be in a position to just kill the wizard. And on top of all that, if you are a Killer Game Master who goes for the spellbook, then that ploy will probably only work once, because a suitably paranoid wizard can make their spellbook nigh-unfindable. It is a legitimate weakness... but as with many cases, exploiting it doesn't actually make the game more fun.
    • Empty Levels are a problem in basically every edition (except 4th, which gives everyone the same advancement for everything). Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards was in effect even in 1st Edition, where Fighters gained nothing from leveling besides incremental bonuses. One very common reaction to this in the 3.5 era was to give the character utility class features whenever it seemed like they wouldn't get anything from their core abilities. In theory, this meant that the character would always have something to look forward to. In practice, this left some classes laden with disparate and near-useless class features that were so minor and situational that they frequently forgot them. The Monk was the worst offender by far; sure, you get something every level, but when that something is a once-per-day fourth-level spell or a once-per-week One-Hit Kill attack that usually misses, why bother? (Exemplified by one Narm-tastic article on the Wizards of the Coast website, which claimed that "players always have something to look forward to with the Monk." On the other end of the power scale, the Sorcerer and Cleric get nothing for leveling up but advancement of their spells and familiar (for Sorcerer) and domains and Turn Undead (for Cleric). Since Turn Undead was needlessly complex, familiars were liabilities, and many domains didn't advance by levels, players would simply jump into a Prestige Class that advanced casting and lose basically jack in the process. Some even used alternate class features that swapped out their familiar or Turn Undead, giving them literally no reason to not take a Prestige Class. Pathfinder did its level best to rectify this by nerfing spellcasting some, cutting down on full-casting prestige classes, buffing many formerly-useless abilities, and redesigning many classes so their abilities always advanced by level. Sadly, as the problem is built into the game, it didn't work, though it did boost the power of the weaker classes... though they were still useless compared to casters.
    • Some Prestige Classes were Purposely Overpowered, to accommodate for extremely difficult requirements. The intent would be to make these classes Difficult, but Awesome, or limit them to NPC use. For the former, if your player has jumped through all the hoops to qualify for Fochlucan Lyrist, they need the absurdly good bonuses just to catch up to everyone else; for the latter, it's not like any player would want to use a pus-spewing disease-ridden degenerate, right? Of course, a wily player could easily end up qualifying for these classes by simply thinking outside the box. For instance, the Hulking Hurler may be reserved for Large-sized characters, and Large races are typically too strong for players to use (the example build is a Stone Giant), but Half-Ogres are Large and have a Level Adjustment equal to Drow. By a similar token, the Ur-Priest requires an Evil alignment, but there's nothing stopping players from simply being a Token Evil Teammate, a Noble Demon, the caster of an all-Evil adventuring party, or even, arguably, taking just a few levels, going through Character Development and changing alignment, and advancing their Ur-Priest casting through another class. Consequently, both the Hulking Hurler and the Ur-Priest are considered to be among the game's biggest Game Breakers.
    • For a perfect microcosm of Fake Balance in 2e, we have the Bladesinger. A Magic Knight kit exclusive to elves, it gave a number of bonuses while using a longsword, as well as a number of other abilities, at the price of not being able to use any other weapons or any armor heavier than elven chain. The problem was that you were already using a longsword due to the elven natural bonuses and it being an extremely common weapon and therefore easy to replace if you got disarmed, not being able to use a bow was a minor setback at worst when you could toss around fireballs, and as a caster, you shouldn't be wearing anything heavier than elven chain anyway. The class also had the roleplay requirement of a code requiring you to rescue elves whenever possible... which had the swashbuckler problem above of actually being an entirely voluntary plot hook (and one that, unlike the paladin code, didn't impact you if you broke it). To cap it off, it had very high stat requirements... but this just meant that players who rolled well, on top of having better stats than their comrades, also got access to stronger abilities. And that's not even getting into the players who "rolled at home", and showed up to the table with a bladesinger whose lowest stat was 13...
    • A pretty easy microcosm of Fake Balance can be found in the incarnum-using classes. The intent was for the incarnate to be the Jack-of-All-Stats, with it having the best incarnum abilities but the worst base stats, while the soulborn was the stronger but less versatile alternative, with the worst incarnum abilities but the best base stats. The problem is that much of incarnum is based on increasing your stats, making it fairly trivial for an incarnate to catch up to a soulborn while also having a variety of other skills. And that wasn't even getting into the totemist, which traded off versatility for power in a much more effective way—it didn't have quite as much to work with as the incarnate, but boasted unique combat-focused abilities that it could throw its points into, turning it into an absolute blender in melee combat. The result was the soulborn being outdone in both power and versatility by its fellows.
  • A recurring design problem through all editions up until 4th was that making someone weaker early on compared to other characters and then compensating for it by making them stronger later on (and vice versa) is Fake Balance. This includes things previously described like Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards, Demi-human level caps, CR-adjustment races, etc. As discussed, in theory this meant that overall balance between characters was achieved throughout the totality of a campaign from levels 1 to 20. In practice, it was quickly discovered that very few games reached this level (thus screwing over players who tolerated being weak early on), some games started at higher levels (thus negating the balance aspect), and even games that intended to run the full level gamut would have the players of now weaker or irrelevant characters getting bored, jeapordizing the game from continuing to run. 4th Edition attempted to correct for this by making most classes very similar to each other, which wasn't very popular. 5th Edition has attempted to fix this by making classes fairly different from each other again, while still being able to contribute at all levels of play, with mixed results.
  • Despite being designed with an eye for better balance, 4th Edition D&D hasn't entirely avoided this. Initially, many players did not understand how to play controller characters properly, and there were a large number of what amounted to fake choices in the original power set for the wizard, the first controller class. Controllers do exactly that, control the battlefield and debuff enemies, but many players picked area damage spells instead, which were terrible because the Wizard is not a damage-dealing class (and never really was, though many players played them as such - and the fact that they seemed powerful even then says something about how useful the casters truly were). Bad Players used to the previous editions, where wizards were often played as damage-dealers rather than controllers, constantly whined complained about wizards being underpowered not being able to do what they used to be able to do in previous editions, while, ironically, they were actually one of the strongest classes, and acquired some game breaking abilities at higher levels which required errata. They later released the Sorcerer, who was a more conventional blaster-wizard designed to deal damage similar to the "throwing fireballs and lightning bolts" evoker that many players played previously.
    • And that is why you should not play a wizard as a Nuker, but as a Debuffer or Mezzer. Even from the first book, the wizard has huge area effects that cause a group of enemies to lose half their actions, or fling them halfway across the battlefield. In the hands of a beginner, the wizard is a sub-par damage dealer. In the hands of a skilled player, it will give your DM nightmares. Unfortunately, this is bad design; later controllers ditched most of the bad damage dealing spells to simply make sure you cannot accidentally make a useless character, instead replacing them with more control options.
    • Other balance items that look good on paper but really don't work: Weapons with a higher accuracy are much, much better than weapons that lose accuracy for special properties, due to the way the game math works at higher levels. Because most powers only have an effect if they connect, hitting is much more important than some incidental rider ability on the strike, and yet weapons got balanced between those that had extra accuracy and those that didn't but had other effects. This is less of an issue for fighters, who have powers which make some of the less accurate weapons much stronger (hammers are amongst the best fighter weapons, despite their slightly lower accuracy, for this very reason), but for every other class...
    • On the DM's side come Solo monsters. Solo Monsters are supposed to represent the same challenge to a group of adventurers that 5 normal monsters do, usually by having higher defenses and four times the normal monster hit points. This didn't work. Solo monsters were derided as boring grindfests. The problems boiled down to the fact that Solo monsters had too many hit points and too few actions - a solo monster could easily be locked down by status effects and didn't have the number of actions a full crew of monsters did, but they were too tough to be taken down in a reasonable amount of time. New versions of solo monsters have more actions (up to and including extra whole turns), more resistances to status effects, lower defenses and hit points (still high, but lower than before) and more "state-changing" abilities. Still, the best use of a "Solo" monster is paired with a few other normal monsters.
    • For those non-players: Orbizards (or Orb Wizards) are Wizards that get a special ability as long as they wield an orb as an implement - as opposed to those who wield a staff, a wand and so on. These also get special abilities, but they weren't nearly as powerful. Orbizards could once per encounter debuff a monster's saving throw against an effect the wizard cast. To succeed on a saving throw, you have to get a 10 or higher on a d20 roll. Solo monsters get a +5 to saving throws, which means they can succeed on a 5 or higher. But the orbizard could - if he took the right items, skills and feats - debuff a monster's save by -17! So you cast "Sleep" or any spell that makes the monster unconscious and needs a save to be ended onto the enemy, couple that with your -17 to saves, and even the highest level monster in the game would need to roll a 22 to succeed. On a d20. This could trivialize entire encounters, and was too powerful. They errataed it out, along with most other saving throw penalties which lasted longer than a round.
  • 5th edition certainly tried to make the game more balanced and streamlined, which ultimately ended up creating a different degree of fake balance. Case in point: The Bard. By streamlining Jack of All Trades, they ended up giving the bard access to literally every skill in the game, as well as an in character justification for having these, the downside to this only comes into play at higher levels, by which point you're more than capable of offsetting it with your other abilities. Your spellcasting abilities are now ramped up really high to be on par with the dedicated spellcasters with the supposed downside being your lack of powerful offensive spells. This would be a fair drawback if you couldn't take spells from other caster's spell lists or if the really earthshattering spells weren't rituals now, and this is the case for both examples. The only real downside is that you can't really do physical combat, but you can easily pick up eldritch blast from the Warlock's list and make this a moot point.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 both suffer from this disease due to all of the reasons above, but also because some codices or army books aren't updated in years. In theory, powerful units are balanced by costing more points than weaker Cannon Fodder, but due to a gradual Power Creep, Power Seep, armies that don't have recent updates tend to find themselves simply out-classed by competitors which have new rules written. It can be downright maddening, such as when an army finds itself losing a special advantage because it is incompatible with the current rules. Armies also have had "legacy" rules which interact with the game's current rules to create an Unwinnable situation. The solution seems to be to give everyone occasional moments in the sun. It just may take twelve to thirteen years for some armies.
    • Sometimes provoked intentionally in order to boost the sales of a flagging army. "HA! Imperial Guardsmen have flashbulb guns and die when breathed on!". Cue new codex. "Guardsmen are cheaper, can shoot rapidfire in ranks if they're under half range and don't move and they have better AP? Which way to the Cadia box?"
    • This is the current problem with the Daemonhunters, specifically the Grey Knights. Even the book itself acknowledges that the Knights are not meant to be used as a stand-alone army, however with the GW policy of "no allies" (reversed as of 2012), that was the only way to field the Knights. In addition, since the change in rules of how to play Daemons (they no longer suffered instability, reversed as of 2013) the Grey Knights are effectively paying extra points for abilities that can never be used (to balance out this advantage in previous editions, Daemons gain Sustained Attack, meaning that any destroyed daemons automatically return back onto the table free of charge. However that rule is still in use).
  • In addition to the above, Warhammer 40k has done pretty much every example on this list.
    • Skill Underestimated: 5th edition Outflanking. Essentially, this allows you to deploy a unit by walking on from a board edge, usually allowing a brutal assault onto anything near that edge. Since you have a 2/3 shot of deploying along the side you want (1/3 of getting the flank you want, 1/3 of getting the flank you don't want, 1/3 of being able to choose which flank you want to deploy on), it's not exactly unreliable. What's more: any unit with the incredibly-common Scouts or Infiltrate special rules can use Outflank deployment. Cue the demise of any army with a Crippling Overspecialization in shooting. (So long as said army doesn't deploy vehicles en masse, which are far less vulnerable to close combat so long as they move at least 6" every turn.) Lash of Submission also deserves honorable mention, as Games Workshop themselves reportedly remarked how they didn't think anybody would use it in great ways when they wrote and tested it.
    • Skill Overestimated: Tyranid Pyrovores. Aside from their perversion of the Tyranid fluff note , the Pyrovore has so many caveats on its not-that-good ability that the unit itself becomes veritably worthless. Essentially, a Pyrovore must suffer Instant Death, roll a 4+ on a six-sided die, and then it will radiate a Strength 3 hit to all models, friend or foe, within about 2.5".
    • Unbalanced Army List: Though they possess a number of average units (Havocs, Raptors, Chaos Lords), nothing compels a Chaos Space Marines player to use these mediocre units any more than absolutely necessary, instead of just taking the best stuff possible (Berserkers, Plague Marines, Daemon Princes). The Warp Talons and Mutilators are incredibly inefficient at what they're designed for (units can't assault after Deep Striking), while Heldrakes are the Flying Chaos Turkeys of Flaming Death (until the Seventh Edition FAQ changed its weapon from a turret to a fixed firing arc).
    • Luck-Based Balance: Chaos Daemons, whose racial hat is Confusion Fu. Every model has a fairly bad invulnerable save that is generally inferior to most other armor types, but they tend to not have many good saves at all. Roll well and you will shrug off tons of firepower. Roll poorly (and more often than not, you will roll poorly), and you'll take a ton of casualties every time an enemy unit shoots at one of yours, and you have next to no shooting of your own, meaning you're pretty much helpless in the shooting phase. And believe it or not, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You literally cannot guarantee that any particular unit will start the game on the table, assuming nobody dies in a Deep Strike mishap. Chaos Daemons were designed to be super-powerful yet balanced by their ability to fail at unpredictable intervals. In practice, they're basically a catastrophic failure waiting to happen.
      • Luck-Based Balance used to be the shtick of the Orcs in earlier editions, where many of their most powerful weapons had random range, strength, or effect radius.
      • Sixth Edition removed some randomness for Daemons (they no longer deploy randomly and have ways to increase their saves if you study the book properly) and threw more randomness into the mix for everyone: warlord traits, psychic powers, and mysterious terrain effects are rolled from tables.
    • Rarity based balance: More representative as a price-based balance. If you can't afford Forge World's "An'ggrath the Unbound," you're not going to field one, simple as that. Also represented by 0-1 units (now called Unique Units), which can only be used a maximum of once, no matter the size of your force. These limits are usually relegated to special characters, who have various abilities that occasionally toe the lines of game balance.
    • Unfair / Situational Advantage: Jaws of the World Wolf is possibly the most Useless Useful Spell in the game. It requires purchasing a very expensive yet easily-killable model. It can't target vehicles. It can be blocked or made more difficult to cast. It's incredibly unlikely to kill any individual model. A clever opponent can minimize its effect by spacing out. And it can instantly kill any model that fails an Initiative test. It also lets you effectively pick which model(s) you want to target, something usually not permitted barring exceptionally rare special abilities. And to make it worse, no saving throws are allowed to any model that is consumed, trumping armor saves, invulnerable saves, cover saves, and even special rules that prevent the model from being instantly killed, which makes Jaws (potentially) into 40k's Infinity +1 Sword. Because Jaws is less useful against higher-initiative models, there's almost a sense in which every unit in the game is judged by whether or not it can easily be killed by Jaws. Woe betide any unit / army if it's a Mighty Glacier with no anti-psyker support (like Ork HQ units).
      • Grey Knights are a hard counter to Chaos Daemons. If you play Daemons and your opponent shows up with Grey Knights, concede right away.
    • Relies on Stalemating / Winning: It is incredibly easy to play for a draw. One of the most blatant offenders is the DAVU setup for the Eldar. DAVU essentially takes the least expensive Troops unit purchasable (5 Dire Avengers) and puts them inside a fast transport vehicle (like a Vehicle Upgrade) to allow the vehicle to capture objectives quickly at the end of the game. The way to beat that is to basically outclass these expensive and not terribly numerous vehicles.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: