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"You know, normally, following a trail of bodies covered in blood is a sign you're going the wrong way.
Follow the dead body road, follow the dead body road..."
Gordon Freeman, Freeman's Mind

When a video game presents you with multiple paths or options, you should always take the most difficult looking one. Don't know where to go? Look for the door with the most Spikes of Doom near it. Need a Pokémon that can actually hurt something? Start leveling your Magikarp. Want the super powerful, glowing Infinity +1 Sword? It'll be at the bottom of a three thousand floor Bonus Dungeon, guarded by the Superboss that takes three hours to kill. In the video game world, doing it the hard way is the only way to get the best rewards.

Often a cause of Useless Useful Stealth. See Short Cuts Make Long Delays for when the game actively punishes you for doing it the easy way, and Ridiculously Difficult Route for when the most difficult route is instead taken because there is no other choice. Related to Sidetrack Bonus. Experience Points can be one reason to do this; the more hard stuff you do, the quicker you'll level up.

(If the game allows it, or if you intrepidly convince it to, usually the best thing is to take both paths via backtracking.)

Compare and contrast Earn Your Fun. Contrast Beef Gate, where the path you're not supposed to take yet is intentionally ridden with enemies too difficult to beat.

Inverting this trope can sometimes lead to Earn Your Bad Ending.


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    Action Adventure 
  • In plenty of The Legend of Zelda games, the door that's easy to get to will be locked. The hard thing to get to will be the Interchangeable Antimatter Key.
  • La-Mulana is made of this. The hard path will have pitfalls, deadly foes, and lasers. The easy path will have inescapable deadly spikes or just trap you forever.
  • In Bastion, you can invoke a whole pantheon of gods. Every god provides an your enemies. On the other hand, invoking all ten nearly doubles your rewards.
  • In Blaster Master, the longest path is always the correct path, no exceptions.

    Action Game 
  • Shinobi 3 has a level near the end in which taking the wrong door sends you back to the start of the level. As you can guess, all the safe-looking ones just send you back, while the ones that actually take you closer to the end have all kinds of death traps, jumping puzzles, and ninjas in front of them.
  • In the NES version of Astyanax, the only way to proceed through Thelenea Castle (the second-to-last stage) is by entering the doors guarded by skeletons.

    Adventure Game 
  • In Sabres of Infinity, taking the riskiest, most dangerous paths (such as taking command of the boarding party, instead of just participating or sitting it out), require high stat checks and can backfire badly if you fail, but they also offer the best opportunities to win medals and boost your reputation.
  • King's Quest VI has two branching paths, the short path and the longer one. The longer path, which requires solving more puzzles and much more danger, leads to the game's Golden Ending. Whereas the short path ends in Easy-Mode Mockery:
    Cassima: Oh, Alexander, I'm so happy that you've finally rescued me.
    Alexander: Yes, my love.
    Cassima: It's just too bad that you never avenged my murdered parents, or found the stolen treasures of the Green Isles, or uncovered the secrets of the Isle of Mist...
    Alexander: Ah, yes, well, um...
    Cassima: ...or ended the feud among the island rulers, or captured Alhazred's genie, or mastered the lost magic of the realm, or defeated the ruler of the Underworld...

    Fighting Game 
  • In Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, the Story Mode has story junctions called "Ultimate Decisions", which branch the story into "Legend" and "Hero" modes. As a rule, the "Legend" paths are generally harder but net greater rewards and more satisfying story scenes. For example, during the fight with the Kyuubi, Naruto can choose via Ultimate Decision to either go it alone ("Legend") or have Killer Bee/Hachibi assist ("Hero"). Choosing "Legend" means a harder fight but better rewards, while choosing "Hero" has the Kyuubi mock Naruto for accepting outside assistance in what is essentially a Battle in the Center of the Mind.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • In Deus Ex you do not receive experience for killing, just for getting further in the game via any of the alternative routes. There is nothing stopping you from visiting all the alternative routes to the same target and cashing the reward for all of them though.
    • Example: In Hell's Kitchen for the first time, your objective is to just find an NSF base and infiltrate. First of all, there's like a half-dozen ways in. Double-backing and going through multiple entrances can get you items and extra experience, but that's not all. 'I know we're all in a hurry here, J.C., but my buddy has been kidnapped.' 'Have you seen my daughter? She's around here somewhere.' 'I think that guy at the bar is a spy for the other side, J.C.' All of which nets you extra experience during a 'time-sensitive' mission to shut down the NSF's operations.
    • Deus Ex was, however, making a noble effort to avert the general RPG tendency to primarily reward fighting, and fighting harder foes more. That convention, in turn, gives all PCs a solid push to become Blood Knights - combat with the biggest of badasses really is the only way to improve, and using perfectly reasonable means to avoid it really does make you weaker.
    • Deus Ex: Human Revolution continues the tradition with the "Ghost" experience bonus for completing objectives without alerting or touching enemies. It is often bigger than the amount of exp you get for hunting down all the enemies. (Of course, there's rarely anything stopping you from stealthing all the way to the end of the level for that sweet xp, then going back and hunting down all the enemies you've bypassed)
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines has some optional stealth objectives for sidequests, such as making it through a gang hideout without being seen or killing anyone, or making it through a gang hideout without being seen and killing everyone, which can be especially hard since some of the gangsters walk in pairs.

    Hack and Slash 
  • In the eighth installment of Dynasty Warriors, completing a Hypothetical objective to save a character from Plotline Death is usually impossible when playing as that character. You have to choose someone else and head things off the hard way. In order to get the Hypothetical star in The Battle of Xinye (which allows you to recruit Xu Shu after you've captured him,) you need to rescue Cao Ren who's stuck surrounded by enemies in the middle of the Eight Gates, a complex maze that needs to be navigated in a specific way or all the doors in your current chamber will shut and you'll be trapped, wasting time. Naturally, the proper way through is nearly the most roundabout route possible, all while beating every enemy captain who's inside the gates. You also need to take a detour in the middle of this to fight and defeat Xu Shu before actually heading into the central chamber to actually resue Cao Ren; Do it in the wrong order and you won't get the star.

    Miscellaneous Games 
  • One of the ways Useless Useful Stealth can be, well, useless, in games where the rewards from killing enemies (weapons, experience, money, etc) is useful or necessary. Sure it's a lot easier to slip past, as compared to facing enemy resistance head-on and Leeroy Jenkinsing your way through them like a madman, but then you're missing out on resources that will make the game easier. Boktai 2 infamously rendered the stealth mechanic entirely worthless by introducing a level progression. Certain games alleviate this by introducing alternatives like a Back Stab ability to One-Hit KO enemies stealthily (and still get the rewards) or reward the player in different ways for sneaking through (Like Chrono Trigger where avoiding fights with the guards and knocking them out from behind meant you got no experience, but instead rewarded you with mid-tonics).
  • The Glider PRO manual suggested that users of the Level Editor should strive to create the "Ultimate Room," which would have three possible ways for the player to cross it:
    One way is fairly obvious and simple, but there are no prizes to be had going this route.
    The second way is a bit tougher, but there is a clock you could get going that route.
    The third way is almost inconceivable, but you have placed an invisible 5000 point down there and an Extra Glider to boot.

    Platform Game 
  • Braid does this in one level, which has one key and two locked exit doors; one of the doors breaks the key but does not open, forcing you to restart the level. The correct door is much harder to get to than the other one, which was apparently meant as a clue (some prefer to call it a "dick move.")
  • Required multiple times in Cave Story in order to get the best equipment and the best ending:
    • In order to upgrade your first gun, the Polar Star into the Spur, you need to refuse both opportunities to exchange it for the Machine Gun or Snake and then finish the Labyrinth so that you can return to the Hermit Gunsmith in the First Cave and have him upgrade it.
    • In order to get the more powerful Booster v2.0 you need to make a pixel perfect jump over a hole in Labyrinth B before the entrace to the Boulder Chamber and forego the Booster v0.8 so that Prof. Booster can use it to save himself from being trapped down the same hole; when you return to Arthur's House, Prof. Booster will have upgraded it for you. The only way to know about this is if you interpreted an obscure hint in a character's diary or read an FAQ.
    • In order to achieve the best ending, according to the secret message in the manual, you need to: Acquire the Booster v2.0 from Arthur's House (see above). Find the Tow Rope to save Curly after you finish the Core, put Curly on the bed in the cabin in the Waterway so that you can drain her of water and save her life, be sure to read the book and not to forget Curly. Talk to Curly and the Cthulhu in the Plantation to learn about the Ma Pignon. Get a Badge from the Storage Room in Mimiga Village Cemetery and examine the Badge. Talk to Ma Pignon, defeat it and feed it to Curly in the Plantation to restore her memories and get the Iron Bond. After defeating the Undead Core, instead of making your way to the aircraft for the Good Ending, use the trap door in the prefab building to enter the Sacred Grounds/Blood Stained Sanctuary and make your way throught it to defeat Ballos.
  • Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams: Helpfully, there are arrow signs telling you which way you need to go to progress towards the end of the level... which is also the way way you should not go first if you want to find all the gems. Most of gems are in hidden paths throughout each stage; if you are aiming for the 5-Star Rank you'll have to find them. To spice things a little more, some of the hidden segments are very difficult to navigate without dying at least once.
  • In Mega Man Zero 4, you can manipulate the weather control systems for each stage to choose between conditions that are favorable to Zero or to the enemy. Picking the latter not only makes the stages harder but allows the bosses to unleash their ultimate attacks, and is required for Zero to learn his special moves from defeating them.
  • Sonic Colors challenges the player to follow hard routes which lets them finish the levels faster as opposed to the safer routes, and maybe earn an S-rank as a result. One notable example is Planet Wisp Act 3 where you have to know exactly when to jump and then double jump to avoid the Egg Chasers shooting lasers at you and when to boost to smash the Egg Pawns on the path and pray you don't fall down to the road below before you grab the Cyan Wisp on the upper road, then attempt to stay on the road all the way to the end so you can boost up the ramp at the end and grab the Red Ring in the air. If pulled off correctly you'll be able to use the Cyan Wisp on the prisms ahead when you land to rack up an enormous Color Bonus.
    • A general rule in Sonic games is that the highest route is the most difficult, but has the best power-ups, and is often the fastest route except for glitches.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • In general, any game that gives you the option to use your skill points for something other than combat. Sometimes you need a specific skill, like diplomacy, to get better results from quests, but the drawback is lowered overall combat ability.
  • Pokémon:
    • In the first gym of Pokémon Red and Blue, you can choose to either go through the easy way and avoid the trainer that guards Brock, or you can go through the hard way and fight the trainers and thus, be rewarded more so in the end by leveling up your 'Mons.
    • In Blaine's gym, you can answer a multiple-choice question to open the door to the next room — getting it wrong will force you to fight the nearby trainer, but you could just fight the trainer in the first place for the EXP. Or you could solve the puzzle and then talk to the trainers to battle them anyway. This was brought back in the Lumiose City Gym in Pokémon X and Y, but you fight the trainer marked with the answers rather than just selecting the answer. You can't challenge the other two trainers if you guess correctly, though.
    • In Sabrina's gym with the teleporters, if you go to the first teleporter and, from there, only use the teleporter directly above or below you, you will eventually make it to the gym leader. The trainers are in the middle of the room, so you won't trigger a fight unless you cross the room horizontally.
    • This is actually commented upon in the fourth generation; in Roark's (oddly similar to Brock's) gym the trainers praise you for taking the hard way, while in Fantina's gym, (where the right door is marked by a simple math problem, and you have an in-game calculator) a trainer guesses that you probably chose the wrong door deliberately to fight them.
    • This is a common element all throughout the Pokemon world. Most routes will have a number of trainers (or patches of grass) to avoid, and only a handful must be fought, but battling trainers and pokemon is good EXP. In addition, patches of grass might lead to useful items, while battling trainers might introduce a shorter route for backtracking later on in the game, and also give money. Veteran players will, in fact, recommend fighting every trainer in the game. Done properly you should never have to worry about being under-leveled or short on cash.
  • Taking the back-door of the National Archives in Fallout 3 nets you much more loot (things you can sell to the person who gave you the mission, weaponry, ammo, other stuff), but is heavily infested with special super mutants.
  • Dungeon Siege II, like the original, is a fairly linear game where all quests are lined up along a single road that runs from the beginning to the end of the game (with the occasional teleporter to transfer you to a different area, where the "road" continues). However, if you're looking for the really good rewards, especially the side-quests, you need to veer off the road whenever possible. Fortunately, detours are always either cul-de-sac (with loot at the end) or come back to the road not far from where you left off. Going straight all the time will normally cause you to end up with inferior equipment or experience level, unless you spend a lot of time running up and down the road many times to defeat the same enemies over and over again.
  • There are a few times you can avert combat in Dragon Age: Origins with the right dialogue options and high enough Coercion. You can avoid fighting the extremely difficult Optional Boss Ser Cauthrien this way twice. Avoiding the fight deprives you of both experience and the Summer Sword, a powerful unique Greatsword with knockback.
  • In Dragon Ball Z Gokuu Gekitouden, the only way to get the "true" ending (the one where Goku goes Super Saiyan and finishes Frieza in a secret ultimate optional final boss fight instead of the game ending when Goku drops the Spirit Bomb on Frieza) is to have everyone at around the power levels they were in the anime when you fight Frieza. This means fighting Frieza, at least up until Goku shows up, is extremely painful. Just like in the anime.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Many players will, when presented with a level objective that isn't to route the enemy, decide to kill them all anyway. This means killing every enemy before engaging the boss, or capturing the base, or even treating survival chapters as time limits to how fast they need to kill every unit. This is harder, but it gives you greater experience, which will eventually make the rest of the game easier.
    • One example in Fire Emblem: Awakening has you deciding between which of two mercenary groups to side with to take the other one down. You could, however, opt to fight both of them, and though Chrom is understandably concerned if you decide to do so (since on top of all this you have a terrain disadvantage), this way allows access to all 4 villages and all the experience of killing every enemy.
  • Final Fantasy VII:
    • In the final dungeon, the party splits up at one point when you reach a fork in the road. You have to decide which party goes where, though after you do so there is nothing stopping you from backtracking and checking both paths out.
    • The Battle Arena in the Gold Saucer gives handicaps determined by a spinning wheel each round. While it's possible to get no handicap or even earn a full healing, doing so significantly lowers the payout in battle points, which are needed to get both Clouds final Limit Break and an extremely powerful materia.
  • Typically in the Shin Megami Tensei games the Neutral or "True" route is the hardest to obtain, due to the route's nature of being Omnicidal Neutral and/or Take the Third Option.
    • Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne: There is the True Demon route. Not only does it require you to essentially fight all three of the faction leaders and the final boss but it also requires you to fully explore the Brutal Bonus Level, which is full of very challenging puzzles and bosses in addition to a True Final Boss battle against Lucifer himself. If you do complete it however Lucifer is so impressed with you that he decides to make you his top general in his war against YHVH.
    • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: From the character standpoint, the Neutral path is the hardest one - you turn your back on both the angels and the demons, siding with humanity alone. This means that you have to fight for all four Cosmic Eggs (whereas Law or Chaos means at least one will fall into your hands without resistance), as well as kill both Jiminez and Zelenin. However, this is the only path where humanity does not suffer the control of outside powers and is free to choose its own destiny. From the player's standpoint, on the other hand, the Law path feels this way, since you must fight both Gore and Mem Aleph, two of the hardest bosses in the game.
    • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux, the New Chaos route is even worse. This path ultimately leads to you fighting every potential major antagonist not named Jimenez. You also get to skip the final fight with Alex, although that's a bit of a cold comfort considering the other four times she tried to kill you.
    • Shin Megami Tensei IV: The Neutral Ending is the hardest to get. First of all, you have to make sure that your alignment points don't lean too much towards Law or Chaos (or too Neutral, because the final choice before your ending is locked in is worth a huge chunk). Then, not only do you have to fight both the Law and Chaos final bosses, but you have to complete every challenge quest in Tokyo, unlike the other routes. However, the neutral ending is the most optimistic, and one of the rosiest of the mainline games. Isabeau doesn't die in this ending (unlike the other routes where she tries to stop you), the people of Mikado are safely and peacefully relocated to Tokyo, and neither of the two populations are at threat of being razed by the alignment heads, and the firmament covering Tokyo is finally lifted.
    • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse: The Massacre route starts with a massive spike in difficulty on top of potentially losing all your items which ends up making the route one of the hardest to complete. This is actually the more extreme of the two major neutral routes you can take, with the relatively pacifistic Bonds route being significantly easier since you don't have to turn against and fight most of your allies.
    • Devil Survivor 2: The Anguished One's route goes beyond the typical Neutral route by having every other ally leave your party once you start it, leaving you to fight the Law, Chaos and Neutral factions with just the protagonist and the Anguished One initially. You gradually get the others back after fighting them, and the route has one of the more unique and complete endings in the game, which was merged with the Neutral route to form the Omega Ending canonical to the Updated Re-release.
  • Undertale is an interesting example. Which while the path to the Pacifist ending in the most consistently difficult, since you have to stay at lvl 1 throughout the whole playthrough and have to spare every encounter you meet, which can often go into Puzzle Boss territory, it is also a route that ends with a Zero-Effort Boss. In contrast, the Genocide ending, while you will be quickly killing everything left and right due to your high level, has a couple of extremely difficult bosses in it that almost requires one to be experienced in Bullet Hell games to complete.
  • Deconstructed in Fallen London with Seeking Mr. Eaten's Name, a story path that requires you to utterly destroy your character, with almost no rewards for any of it. In-universe, anyone who realizes you're seeking the name will beg you to stop, and with damned good reason. One point that truly stands out is when you're offered two choices when trying to acquire St. Erzulie's Candle. The first choice will cost you almost everything important about your character, with no replacements and no chance to replace what you lose. The other choice costs you absolutely nothing. They both give you exactly the same results.

    Simulation Game 
  • One mission of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War has your squadron escorting a small convoy on the ground that has to reach an air base at a certain time. They come to several forks and each time you have to decide whether to take the short way or the long way. Always going the long way makes you fail the mission by being late, but the short way always has more enemies. Nothing a big bomb or two can't sort out, though.
  • Ace Combat: Joint Assault plays with this. One mission has you flying an unarmed 747 through a ravine, which splits up at one point. The longer, apparently safe route has proximity-triggered mines and flak guns. The shorter path, on the other hand, has you dealing with missiles. In a 747 in a ravine. This fact cannot be emphasised enough. Either way, you're still taking poison.

    Strategy Game 
  • In Gemcraft, most of the strategy is based around deciding how much to make your own life harder in the name of more experience. One can do such things as playing on harder settings, summoning waves early while they are still dealing with others, and even spend their own gem bombs on summoning more monsters to fight. If you don't do this enough, it can be much harder to finish harder fights with a lower character level.
  • Warcraft III has an Escort Mission that gives you a choice between a shorter path that goes through an undead base and a longer but less-defended path. You can explore both as the caravan won't follow you if you backtrack, but it will still be attacked regularly whichever path you take.

    Survival Horror 
  • The Awesome series video Resident Awesome- Leon is trying to go through a clear, safe path to an objective, but the game diverts him to a path filled with multiple zombies and the Yeti from SkiFree.
  • Resident Evil 4: There's a section where you can choose one of two paths; one has a bunch of mooks and a set of minibosses, while the other has a single El Gigante. Since all bosses in the game drop valuable items on death, skilled players will do both paths for the monetary gains. This is also a bit of a deconstruction- the ammo you spend doing things this way may not be worth the spare money, depending on your skill level.

    Non-Video Game Examples 
  • Shows up on the "Detour" on The Amazing Race. Teams must choose between two tasks. In these cases, one is scary or physically challenging, but fast, while the other is safe, but tedious and time-consuming. Used very frequently on the first four seasons, but not too often anymore, as teams never took the longer option.
  • Dumnestor's Heroes has 'Blackeye' Susan taking the apparently-disused path to avoid the grues.
  • Discussed and subverted in FoxTrot. Jason (the video game fan) is having an impossible time getting past a certain boss, and Paige (who has very little interest in video games) discovers that if you don't attack, you can just walk right past him with nothing to stop you. Jason finds this quite hard to believe, and when he does believe it, he remarks that doing things the easy way is extremely difficult.
  • Freeman's Mind lampshades this, repeatedly.
    Gordon: Well, I'm going to assume that because this is the most dangerous-looking thing I've seen in my life, I'm going the right way.
  • Homestuck:
    • Eridan assumes that everything you encounter in a game is there to be killed for rewards and glory, and goes about his merry way slaughtering the angels living on his SGRUB planet. It says something about him that, when the first casualty failed to give any reward whatsoever, he kept killing until the angels started actively assaulting him. The idea that they were put there to help him, and not meant to be attacked, strikes him as ridiculous.
    • Later, nearly all of the trolls are revealed to have been guilty of this, to some extent. While they believed their Denizens were boss monsters, and received their grist hoards by killing them, the truth is that they were supposed to be given some sort of choice.
    • Caliborn takes this approach to just about everything, even if the alternative is far easier. It was so effective he ended up becoming the Big Bad with the power he received as a reward.
  • Hunter × Hunter has an odd subversion of this trope in which the group has to choose between two paths, one of which will take hours to complete, the other of which will only take minutes. The catch is that in order to take the short path, they would need to leave two of their teammates behind. Since they only have 20 minutes or so left to finish the maze, it seems that leaving people behind is the only option. However, they're all able to make it to the end by taking the true path of most resistance. They enter the long path and then, because the two paths are right next to each other, break through the stone wall with the weapons that the room prepares (for in-fighting between the team or for this scenario) in order to go down the short path instead.
  • In The Order of the Stick, while the team are en route to the Dwarven town of Firmament to stop the plot of the High Priest of Hel, they come to the conclusion that they're on the right path upon consideration that the ambush of a group of Frost Giants on their airship was not a Random Encounter but a calculated effort to obstruct them.
    Elan: I guess it woulda been strange if we'd gotten all the way there without anyone trying to stop us.
    Haley: Yeah. If you think about it, this only proves that we really are a threat to Hel's evil plans.
    Belkar: Hell yeah, we are!
    Vaarsuvius: The relative dearth of pretext and subterfuge does imply an increase in urgency.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has this trope in place with several characters choosing to take paths that are harder than they need to be, though it is intentional and for a reason. Reset Ash Ketchum ending up with the qualifications to enter the league after beating the second gym is the most prominent example: while he can technically do nothing from that point on, he continued to challenge gyms specifically because he knows that he and his Pokemon aren't ready for it yet. He uses the path to ensure they'd be ready. The Astrid Oneshot explores two people who took the path: with the one who took it fully, an OC named Vermell, defeating Astrid specifically for the parts of the path she didn't do. The Cipher oneshot deconstructs the trope, with a character having specifically chosen this path without being ready for it like Ash, Vermell, and Astrid to an extent were. He ends up at a point where joining Team Cipher is the only way for him to survive.
  • In Waiting is worth it, Izuku is given the option to get into UA on Toshinori's recommendation, allowing him to skip the entrance exam altogether. Feeling like this would be unfair to all of the other applicants, he decides to forgo this and take the exam instead. Not only does he get in anyway, but this allows him to show off his raw power and save Uraraka.
  • In the console RPG parody webcomic The DOOM Army, there's a page actually titled "Path of Most Resistance" in which an NPC tells the Idiot Hero to take an extremely difficult route to his destination, while the NPC will take the other path to the same place, which is a shortcut with no danger whatsoever. When the hero objects and asks why he should go the hard way, the NPC says "That way has treasure boxes" and he immediately agrees.


Video Example(s):


Tenacious D's Road Gig

When the Open-Mic Host asks Tenacious D to spend the next night at his brother's club, they treat it like a "road gig", seeing it as a step-up for the band. Even though the open-Mic host insists that it is only a few blocks away. To keep up the fantasy, they draw a needlessly long route there, taking them to the desert.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / PathOfMostResistance

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