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"Collecting all Chaos Emeralds unlocks Super Sonic to play with, or as I call him, the Destroyer of Souls. I'm serious. [...] He has the best speed, the best handle, the best acceleration, and has a double jump to boot. If you're gonna get Super Sonic, prepare to make the rest of the game boring, and prepare to lose friends in multiplayer."
SomecallmeJohnny reviewing Sonic R

An often controversial element of gameplay that unexpectedly trumps all others, a Game-Breaker is an element of a game that, due to underestimated abilities (whether on its own or when it's combined with another item/mechanic) or players coming up with creative ways of using it, ends up making the game hugely easy.

For example, in a game where the player's capabilities are meant to be limited by their access to currency, an easy trick that reaps a lot of money for little effort can become a Game-Breaker. Or a particular gun having extreme firepower, high accuracy, and a high ammo capacity; or a Fighting Game character having a fast, unblockable move with very high priority (the ally equivalent to the SNK Boss). In games with a choice of playable characters, one may be much easier than the others and allow for skipping parts of levels that other characters would have to wade through slowly.

Developers might add a Necessary Drawback to weapons or powers, but due to an oversight this drawback might never enter into action (for example, if the counter is easily neutered by other means). Then it is easy to get a game breaking ability.

Another example is the potentially convoluted win/make-then-sell exploit, which is common in games with customizable items. A borderline example may be the trick of saving your game before a random item appears and reloading until you get the particular item you want, also known as Save Scumming.

A Game-Breaker can boost a pre-existing strategy or character and make it overwhelmingly powerful against things it would normally be balanced against — Scissors crushing Rock, so to speak. One fan term for it is "cheesing". Depending upon who you ask, it may or may not be considered cheating. The Meta Game ends up revolving around who can get the Game-Breaker (or use it on the other) first, resulting in Gameplay Derailment.

Patches will often seek to rectify this. However, this often leads to an outcry among players who favored the original tactic. Worse, sometimes the nerfing of one Game-Breaker results in another Game-Breaker being discovered as a result, prompting the developers to consider whether they should apply a patch for the second one, or undo the previous patch, so the two Game-Breakers will balance each other out as they used to.

Game-Breakers are often controversial and subjective. Rarely do people actually agree on what is and is not game-breaking. Heated debates (or worse) over Game-Breakers spread like wildfire on the Internet, or even around the house. It's obvious that the extremes of the Munchkin or the Scrub are wrong. However, there are techniques whose power is hard or even impossible to call.

Banning glitches and "unintentional" moves is usually a difficult thing to do. Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether something is a glitch or not, sometimes a glitch happens so often that you'd have to go out of your way to have it not happen, and other times it can be argued that a glitch adds more depth to a game rather than less.

The upshot is that you should probably take most of the below examples of multiplayer games with a kilo of salt. (No, not that kind of salt.)

Unlike video games, many older Tabletop RPGs have a built-in check in the form of the Game Master, who can override published rules for the sake of everyone's enjoyment; thus, with a good Game Master, no Game-Breaker is possible. However, this naturally carries the corollary that, with a bad Game Master, the game comes pre-broken. Just what is and isn't game-breaking is, again, controversial, and many GMs have to deal with a limited player base; too heavy or too light a hand may alienate players and destroy the Game Master's plan.

Compare Disc-One Nuke and Sequence Breaking. A Lethal Joke Character may be one of these, as will the One-Man Party if the game's balance is easily skewed. Lightning Bruisers are also common candidates. Some Boring, but Practical moves/tactics may border on this. That One Attack, when available un-nerfed to players, usually becomes this, as will any particularly powerful Min Maxers Delight. The Obvious Rule Patch is typically a response (but not necessarily a typical response) to the presence of this trope. Contrast The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, as well as Skill Gate Characters that appear this way to newbies but can be taken apart by experts. Difficult, but Awesome characters can also be this when they're so overwhelmingly powerful when mastered that there's no way to beat a skilled user. Often overlaps with High-Tier Scrappy. Often the cause of Complacent Gaming Syndrome.

Oftentimes, your average Cheese Strategy will use this to grand effect, particularly if the game-breaking aspect of it is something that even the least-skilled or least-knowledgeable player would still be able to figure out, but just because something is a Cheese Strategy doesn't make it a game-breaker, nor vice-versa. Only if it is a truly-unbalanced mechanic would they intersect.

A power-up that would be a Game-Breaker, except that it only appears when the game is essentially over, is Purposely Overpowered — note that most examples of these tend to be single-player affairs, where there are no other opponents to become offended over it. For stats that, once boosted to a high enough degree, make the character into a Game-Breaker, see One Stat to Rule Them All.

Note that this is not another word for 'overpowered'. To be a true Game-Breaker, the ability or character in question must be so hideously unbalanced that it makes people just quit the game in disgust. It's so powerful that there are only two kinds of people: the ones that use it, and the ones that lose to it. That's why people quit in disgust: it destroys all semblance of choice, and quite possibly all semblance of fun. Your available tactics are now limited to one—the one that works. And what if you don't like that tactic? What if it's a gun in a game where you prefer swordplay? What if it involves Attack! Attack! Attack! when you're more of a defensive turtler? What if it requires you to play the Mighty Glacier, but you're a Fragile Speedster player? Well, then, it sucks to be you. You can play the game the way you want to, and lose... or you can follow the crowd, and maybe win. Small wonder some players Take a Third Option and Rage Quit instead.

Not to be confused with Game-Breaking Bug, for when you can literally "break" the game by crashing the underlying software or leaving your saved game in an Unwinnable state, or Game Changer. The narrative equivalent of this trope is Story-Breaker Power.


Works that have their own pages

Non-Video Game Examples:

Anime & Manga

  • In Fairy Tail, during the Magic Tournament arc, one game has a house with 100 monsters inside, whose strengths vary from scary (D class) to indescribably scary (S class). Each competitor picks the number that they want to fight at one time, but only gets 1 point per monster (regardless of class), and can't leave until they give up or the monsters are dead. So Erza picks all of them. Even though she only needs 51. When she's done, the other 7 competitors are reduced to punching a device to measure their power level.
  • Ratings Games, the tightly-regulated arena combat Devils use to test each other in High School Dx D, ban the use of Balance Breakersnote  and certain other spells and abilities that have an unreasonable chance of killing the target outright before they could be retired to the holding area. Note that this only applies to Ratings Games, in life-or-death combat these abilities are used with wild abandon. At one point Rias demonstrates the power of a new spell by pointing out it would be illegal in Games.
    • Rias' Peerage is a collective Game-Breaker in ratings games. In theory every Devil in a peerage is attuned to a type of Chess piece, limiting the headcount and roles of stronger members by superior pieces, as well as the amount of grunts/cannon fodder pawns. A particularly adept Jack of All Stats might take several pawns to reincarnate/sign up. Issei is eventually worth twelve pawns , plus her bishop Gaspar is another mutated (read: overpowered) piece, and both can be fielded without taking penalties elsewhere. The only thing balancing this story-breaking advantage is a serious manpower problem, as Ratings Games take place in large arenas where tactics matter and she's outnumbered nearly two-to-one, and the major villains have no interest whatsoever in playing Hell's internal power games.

Films — Animation

  • In Wreck-It Ralph, Vanellope Von Schweetz is an In-Universe game breaker. She possess a glitching that allows her to suddenly appear in front of her opponents in the Random Roster Race, which is a very useful ability in a racing game. Even after crossing the finish line and resetting her game, she keeps this advantage.

Films — Live-action

  • Kinuba in Alita: Battle Angel is a motorball player armed with the ultra-deadly Grind Cutters, which turn his fingers on one hand into chainsaw-like whips that can shred through almost anything. Since they’re pretty much the closest thing to projectile weapons as you can get in a setting where projectile weapons are banned, he’s effectively unstoppable on the track and begins rising up the ladder far quicker than everybody else. So Vector kills him for screwing up the carefully rigged odds and breaking the game, stealing his weapons to use them against Alita off the track.


Live-action TV

  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Big Bad Kamen Rider Chronus is an In-Universe example, as he is basically a Game-Breaker in human form, and entirely by design. It was created to be the reward for the player who could defeat all twelve of the bosses in Kamen Rider Chronicle, which unlocked the Final Boss Gamedeus, who's so powerful that Chronus is said to be the only thing that could possibly defeat it. When Chronus falls into the hands of Masamune Dan, he starts with the power to "Pause" time and develops several more powers that allow him to completely dominate the rest of the cast for the final third of the series.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Elementary Dear Data", Data has a simple one for the Sherlock Holmes simulations he tries on the holodeck: as the simulations were meant to follow the plots of Conan Doyle's original stories, simply having committed the stories word-for word to memory (possible for Data's android brain) makes him able to "solve" the mystery without playing through the game and picking up the clues. The other characters have to explain to him this is missing the point (the challenge of solving the mystery being what makes the game fun) and set about reprogramming the simulations to provide Data with an actual challenge. Unfortunately, since Geordi specifically asks for a scenario capable of challenging Data, not Holmes, the ship complies by granting Professor Moriarty sentience and sapience, turning the professor himself into a Game Breaker: he picks up on Data's ability to alter reality in the holodeck, realizes he can do the same thing, and promptly takes over the Enterprise.
  • Thumb Wrestling Federation has several moves that could qualify, but what stands out is Senator Skull's "Super Skull", which results in both a pinned opponent & ''a wrecked arena". It is also so violent that it has to be censored, so we don't know exactly what happens when Senator Skull uses it.


  • Yureka: The three rings Lotto recovered during the Demon War are together an in-universe example. They could, if used improperly after the battle they were devised for, completely unbalance the game. Lotto chooses to defend its integrity and refrains from using them, save in truly hazardous situations.


  • Mario Party TV: in their metagame to determine which player is the best Mario Party player, the core four decided that if they tried to determine it on number of stars (as in the first series), that the Mario Party 6 board Faire Square would do this, as thanks to their star mechanics-a player can buy up to five stars at once, and at night the price is randomly set with the chance of it being as low as five coins-it would be possible for someone lucky with both getting coins and purchasing stars at the right time to build a sizable lead the others can't catch up on, which is why they switched to a points system for the SuperSalt series. (Incidentally, when they played Faire Square for that series, in which they explained the above, Mr. Doom proved their point by ending the board with 26 stars, when the others couldn't breach 15.)
  • Alluded to in the title of PC gaming site Rock Paper Shotgun.
  • The spartan from Deadliest Warrior the Deadliest Warrior video game is a bit of game breaker. His spear range attack flies at head level (and attacks to the head are almost always one hit kills), and can end a match within a second if the opponent doesn't move out of the way IMMEDIATELY.


  • The cast of the webcomic Adventurers!, which is set in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse, have found and exploited a few of these.
  • The Order of the Stick (set in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse based on 3rd Edition D&D) parodies this when Roy meets a half-ogre with a "perfect" character build. Due to his size, his wielding a spiked chain (a reach weapon), and his combat reflexes, he was able to score multiple attacks on Roy every time he approached by jumping backwards. After boasting about how invincible he was, he ended up jumping back a little too far and going off a cliff.
  • +99 Reinforced Wooden Stick: The protagonist is a newbie in an MMO that tries upgrading a simple wooden stick, and due to a bug or design oversight, is able to turn it into a super weapon able to destroy the landscape and kill swathes of players with one swing. It's more literal than usual, too — at one point he destroys the game's planet and crashes the servers from unleashing too much power.

Western Animation

  • Craig of the Creek: In-Universe. The "Beast Snare" card in the in-universe card game Bring Out Your Beast makes the user basically unbeatable because it allows the player to permanently take any number of their opponent's cards. The card was only printed during the game's first edition before the creators realized how incredibly broken that is and is now exceptionally rare (although for some reason it's still considered a legal card). The Beast Snare card of course parodies some of the early overpowered cards of Magic: The Gathering and the allowing of "anteing" (gambling) your cards early in the game's history.
  • Subverted in Magi-Nation. A power gem could be bought for 8 animite and sold for 12 animite. However, while animite is the currency of the realm, you never need to buy items, as you can recover health naturally, and you need infused animite anyways to forge rings. Basically, its a game breaker in the most technical sense that you need animite, but you don't need it that badly.
  • When Phineas and Ferb create a virtual reality game, Candace gets sucked in, with a Modesty Towel and, more important to the trope, a hairdryer reducing the use of "jumping and ducking."
  • In ReBoot Bob's Glitch lets him be a cheating bastard in every game he's in. Then there was the one time he (mistakenly) brings a bomb into a racing game, and the explosion crashes the game. And the one time Matrix pulled out his Gun, in a Golf Game.

Real Life

  • Economy is not immune to this either. There is The Pyramid Scheme, something that if allowed would turn our capitalistic economy into a monarchistic one. The basic principle is simple. There is one guy offering a job to you. You offer him a part of your money to do the job, which is to recruit people doing a job for you in exchange of a part of their money that is partially for you and partially for your boss. The job this guy is going you do is to recruit people to do a job in exchange for a share of their revenue which is going to get shared with you and your boss and the guy recruited for the job has as a job to... I think you get the point by now. As you can imagine, the fact that the system seldom if ever sells goods or services to customers leads plenty of governments to do everything in their power to forbid those systems from being in circulation in their country.
  • A parachute can turn an egg-drop competition into a joke: if it can handle a ten-foot drop, a parachute-equipped egg can survive being dropped from any altitude up to the point where you need to worry about surviving orbital re-entry. Consequently, many egg-drop competitions ban the use of parachutes.
  • During both World Wars the British Royal, British Commonwealth, and American Navies had access to the then current uncensored editions of Jane's Fighting Ships. This might not seem like much of a game breaker until you realize that those books contain very detailed technical information about almost every major surface warship that was afloat during both of those wars. All of the following was contained in one easy to reference source:
    • Silhouette line drawings and/or photographs of almost every class of ocean going surface warship (including obsolete and minor ones) in the world.
    • Many of the silhouette line drawings tell you how thick the side armour was and how it was distributed.
    • The planview line drawings almost always showed the weapon layout and often included information about firing arcs.
    • Many entries include information about deck armour and underwater protection. Some have a thick line in the silhouette drawings indicating where, in elevation, the deck armour is located and/or vertical dashed lines showing the location of the watertight transverse bulkheads.
    • Information about things like fuel bunkerage, fuel consumption, fuel type (coal, oil, diesel, or mixed), engine horsepower, maximum speed, and cruising range is extensive.
    • The WWI editions had some fairly detailed information about individual models of naval artillery (shell weight, powder charge, muzzle velocity, range, and more), charts of major harbors with depth and tide information, and information about the size and number of the dry dock, floating dock, and refueling facilities available at those harbors.
    • This is the 1906 entry for the Japanese Battleship Mikasa. It is fairly representative of the typical capital ship entry.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Game Breaking


Meta Knight is SS Tier

Meta Knight is shown to be considered the most powerful character in Brawl and the most powerful character in Smash history.

How well does it match the trope?

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