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Pause Scumming

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Save Scumming is when a player saves excessively so as to be able to undo mistakes by loading an earlier save. This is when a player pauses excessively to slow down or otherwise lower the difficulty of a game. This kind of gameplay is absolutely essential for micromanagement during difficult boss battles in games that feature Real-Time with Pause, but in straight action games, it's an artificial way to make the game easier that the developers didn't intend.

Some games try to avert this by having the pause menu cover the entire screen, not allowing the player to issue commands while pausing, or simply annoying the player with a pause sound or short delay after pausing and unpausing; however, some examples where even that can be abused springs to mind. The most extreme form of preventing Pause Scumming is to not allow pausing at all.

Some games accidentally escalate the usefulness of this strategy by having glitches associated with pausing. Common examples:

  • An enemy will continue to take damage from a weapon while the game is paused.
  • An enemy's Mercy Invincibility timer, or a player weapon/ability's Cooldown timer will keep running during the pause, allowing the player to attack again before the enemy acts.
  • Pausing stops the clock, and the player can perform actions before the clock starts up again after unpausing, even though the game is not supposed to have Real-Time with Pause.

Don't do this in multiplayer, by the way. Just don't.

Tool-Assisted Speed Runs allow the performer to simulate this by pausing the emulator, which is a tame trick compared to the other things they can (legitimately) do. Note that if you're watching a TAS and you actually see the game being paused, it's being done to avoid lag or otherwise speed up the game.


  • The ASCII Pad and many similar "turbo" controllers in the 8- and 16-bit eras had toggles that pressed the pause button many times a second, often labeled "slow-mo".
  • This is one of the only ways to get past Blockhead Grande in Ōkami. He has eight weak points to remember, which must be struck precisely and in order (and change randomly after each try), many players considered the best way to do it to pause and write them down as each one is revealed (or record it on a camera).
  • The Commodore 64 version of Donald Duck's Playground, an educational game in which Donald works (you play minigames) to earn money to buy toys for his nephews, could be pause scummed. Pause/unpause was bound to the space bar, and repeatedly tapping it (holding it down didn't work) would slow the game down. Not a big deal - that's a pain to do. Except that the game used Joystick 2, and it's well-known that Joystick 1's fire button often mimics a tap of the space bar. A spare joystick with autofire became a slow-motion feature. Odder still is that the in-game clock never counted down while you were doing this: the clock seemingly "forgot" about whatever fractions of a second it was internally tracking when it was paused. Since all the minigames are on timers (and one has a second timer you also need to keep an eye on), this slow-motion also comes in handy for finishing a minigame task about to be left half-complete, so Donald could get out with a sweet sweet extra fifteen cents.
  • Approximated in several Real Life sports where calling a time out can be used to obtain an advantage that goes beyond stopping the clock.
    • In sports like basketball and lacrosse, a smart coach can call time out if their team is about to lose possession in a critical situation and then get a re-start in a more advantageous position.
    • In tennis, the lax rules regarding "medical" time outs can give players extended breaks to recover mentally from tactical setbacks under the pretext of having an injury attended to.
    • In gridiron football, "icing" the kickernote  is a dubiously effective yet commonly practiced method of Pause Scumming.
    • In ice hockey, the rules regarding icingnote  were changed in 2005 following the '04-'05 NHL lockout so the infringing team couldn't make line changes, thus preventing a team from using this tactic to stifle momentum and change out fatigued players. The delay of game rule was also expanded to penalize teams who shoot the puck out of play from their defensive zone.
  • In the flash game Age of War, trained units are put in a queue and continue to be built even with the pause on, resulting in the computer facing five units occupying the same position (but only one takes damage at a time). Only useful for defense though, as they still walk in single file towards the enemy.
  • Many games poll the controller every frame (1/30 or 1/60 of a second). This normally limits how frequently a button can be mashed - if the button state changes between pressed/unpressed faster than this interval, the game will only see the "pressed" state on every frame and act as if the button were being held down the entire time. Pausing the game often bypasses this limitation, since the game will register the button being unpressed. This is mostly useful in Tool-Assisted Speedruns. It's used in Super Mario 64 tool-assisted speedruns to enact a glitch that enables you to travel backwards at Sonic the Hedgehog-level speeds by alternating between jump and pause, effectively pressing jump on every frame of gameplay instead of every second frame. See here for a run which incorporates some of the most stunning examples to date.
  • There is a very easy way to beat a rather difficult but initially non-hostile boss Firkraag in Baldur's Gate II, which consists of right-clicking on him as if to talk, pausing the game, and manually ordering your party to attack him instead. Since the game locks him in dialogue mode, he will not aggro and fight back until you are about half-way through his HP.
    • In all Baldur's Gate games, when fighting a mage or wizard near a doorway to another screen, pausing right as they start their spell and clicking the door would cause your character to run out the door leaving the area just before getting hit by the spell. By repeatedly abusing this trick, you could make spellcasters run out of spells and thus force them to attack you hand to hand, which could turn even the most powerful wizard into a pathetically easy fight.
  • In Battlespire when you shoot a bow, it normally takes a few seconds for it to be reloaded and ready to fire. Pausing the game stops all the other action, but the bow reloading continued. This allowed you to murder high level enemies by turning them into a pincushion by shooting them repeatedly with each reload only taking a fraction of a second of "real" time.
  • In Blaster Master, it's possible to beat some of the bosses by hitting them with grenades and pausing at the right moment. If you do it right, the boss will keep taking damage while paused.note 
  • When you're playing Borderlands by yourself instead of co-op, you can reload any weapon with almost no in-game time passing by pausing, putting in the inventory, unpausing, re-pausing as quickly as possible, putting the weapon back on your active deck, then unpausing again. This can be fairly useful with certain weapons, like Rocket Launcher, which have agonizingly long reload times.
  • Cave Story has a glitch where your usual Mercy Invincibility goes away as soon as you pause. In normal gameplay, it's the opposite of helpful, but during a Speedrun it's essential. Negating invincibility lets you bounce off a single enemy multiple times, and pulling this off in Grasstown lets you jump over Chaco's house and skip an entire Fetch Quest.
  • In Chrono Cross, there is a gambling minigame where you have to stop the roulette spinner at the right spot to win prizes. If you pause when the red tip is between west and south and then immediately stop the spinner, you'll win every time. Makes it trivial to get a lot of Denadorites to craft some of the best equipment.
  • In Digimon World -next 0rder- digimons will chase you on the overworld and when they touch you it forces you into a battle. The digimon is pushed slightly further away from you when you pause, so if you wanted a digimon off your trail you can pause repeatedly
  • Here's how to beat anything in Divine Divinity: drop a teleport stone in a safe place nearby, walk into an area with dangerous enemies, pause, drop a scorpion trap or three (unleashing a ridiculously strong scorpion that attacks any hostiles nearby), pause, click the other teleport stone to teleport away, rest for a few hours, and return to the area to find everything dead.
  • Doom (2016) features a glitch where, if you enter the weapon selection menu, the game pauses but the projectile launched by the BFG still deals damage to any enemies in its range. This typically wouldn't matter, since the BFG obliterates almost any enemy it hits instantly. However, this can be abused during boss fights to nearly instantly bring down otherwise difficult opponents.
  • Dota 2: this is known as a "Tactical Pause", the same way some call killstealing "kill-securing". Like many multiplayer games, a system of delaying pauses is present (unless there's a player disconnected present, then pausing is instant), but that doesn't stop some from trying anyway. Much more often pauses are used **after** killing an enemy player in a "now you're out of the game for 3 more seconds" fashion.
  • The final boss in Dynamite Headdy involves an orb that changes colours, a roulette of heads for Headdy to choose from for a split second after the colour is revealed, and then the boss attacking based on the colour of the orb. Choosing the right head is suitably tough normally, but becomes a joke with Pause Scumming.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
  • Fallout 3 has this. Going to your PipBoy menu during combat to heal is quite effective and weighing your advantages and disadvantages through the menu is also a plus. Of course, most players do this as a standard anyway, even though there's shortcuts you can use. Putting an ammo-using weapon in the inventory and pulling it out also reloads it. Same goes for New Vegas, unless you have Hardcore mode activated (which makes healing item recover health over time instead of immediately).
    • The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (VATS) used in the two games is a variation of this. It essentially stops time from the player's perspective to allow them to target an enemy's specific body part or limb to inflict damage. Every body part has a different percentage chance of hitting, and these attacks use up Action Points meaning player can only do a set amount of attacks on the target before AP has to refresh. But this allows the player to essentially have unlimited time to plan his/her attack. Of course, one other use VATS has is that it enables the player to scan the surroundings during combat to know where the obscure enemies are.
      • Less useful as this in Fallout 4, where VATS goes into Bullet Time instead of complete pause, and averted in Fallout 76, where VATS and the Pip-Boy menu don't pause anything (being an MMO, it wouldn't be possible).
  • The Final Fantasy games have several examples:
    • Many of the games with the "Active Time Battle" system (4 thru 9, and X-2) have an option to pause the ATB clock when a player accesses an in-battle submenu (magic, items, etc.), but any in-progress attack animations will continue to execute. As a result, the player can gain a slight speed advantage by opening the menu whenever a party member executes an action, to prevent enemy turns from coming up while the attack animation takes place.
      • Final Fantasy V had a low-level Time spell called "Speed" which, while not providing an actual speed boost, paused the ATB timer whenever a character's turn came up so that the player can decide on an action without enemy turns occuring in the process.
      • In the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV, the ATB timer automatically pauses when any combatant starts executing their action, making the system impossible to exploit.
      • Final Fantasy VI uses a pseudo-RNG to determine what abilities are available on Setzer's 'Slots' skill (rigging it so that you can't hit 7-7-7 every time). Then someone discovered that the RNG is easily manipulated, so the player can re-rig it to the most favorable seed, then pause scum the instant kill.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, pressing and holding the Square button during combat hides the user interface until you release the button. This can be used to abuse a couple of mechanics that use slot reels, because the reels don't move while the interface is hidden. For example, this makes it easy to force a specific outcome off the slots that dole out handicaps in the game's Monster Arena.
      • Playing this game on the PSP makes it ridiculously easy to control the slots. Pressing the Home button completely pauses the game, Slots included. If you line up the slot as you want it, press and hold Circle. It both exits the Home menu and instantly stops the slot.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, the player can enter the party menu any time, during combat or otherwise. This enables such things as removing equipment from characters who are under Confusion ailment and about to murder a party member, or switching accesories and armour to nullify the effect of a status ailment or elemental spell the enemy is readying.
  • A similar bug was present in General Chaos, where the projectiles were not stopped by pausing the game.
  • Inverted in GoldenEye, where the pause animation (Bond looking at his watch) happens in real time and you're helpless during that split-second delay, meaning you can indeed be killed if you pause in the middle of a firefight.
  • In Jak II: Renegade, it really helps to pause during the seer's minigame and during the whack-a-Metalhead machine minigame.
  • One of the bosses in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix (Luxord) requires the player character hit the right option on the menu as the the four options spin around like a slot machine. Expect people pausing in the menu to get the timing right when accomplishing a No-Damage Run of the boss.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has several ways to blatantly take advantage of the feature. First, you can use one medical or buff item during a turn while the game is paused; so if you are very low on HP, you can use this to apply a medkit. It can also be used to engage a shield or a stimulant buff. Another good use for it is by spamming it during the swoop races, making the sequence go in stop-motion so you can effectively see and target the speed boost pads.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In Ocarina of Time you can use a variant of this when racing the ghost of Dampe. Since his tomb is one of the few locations that warp songs won't work in, you can abuse the error message playing one generates. You are free to move during the textbox, and it won't deduct time from the countdown. Watch this in action in this video.
    • Wind Waker has long been known to have a bug called "super swimming", which gives Super-Speed beyond the game's intended design and allows major Sequence Breaking. One version requires abusing a second bug with the Wind Waker (and therefore can't be performed until you get it), and the other requires frame-perfect inputs — or pause buffering.
  • In Lemmings Revolution, when you blow up a lemming with the Bomber command, just before exploding, the lemming in question crouches. If you pause while he's crouching, you can give him another command (like "build") and thus save him from exploding. This trick is absolutely necessary on some of the later levels in which you must save every single lemming since doing the above is the only other way to turn Blockers back into normal lemmings besides the more common method of digging out the ground underneath them and forcing them to fall, something that naturally can't be done if you have no commands available that can accomplish that or if the Blocker is standing on indestructible terrain.
  • Any time you're using the MAKO in Mass Effect, you can go the the map screen to cancel momentum. This can be useful if you're trying to go up an extremely steep incline and accidentally drive off of an edge. Cancelling momentum prevents you from landing too far from where you started.
  • In Mega Man, there were two pause buttons, Start and Select. Pausing with Select did not pause Mercy Invincibility (which almost every boss had), thus if you repeatedly pause and unpause with good timing you can deal massive damage with a single Thunder Beam.
    • In fact, this was the easiest way to beat various late-game bosses in the original Nintendo Hard game, particularly Yellow Devil.
    • Mentioned in a fanmade music Can't Beat Airman as "Endless Pause".
    • In the earlier Mega Man games, it's also possible to go to your weapons menu just as you're about to be hit by an attack, and when you resume, the projectile will pass right through Mega Man. Pausing and unpausing also resets falling speed, allowing Mega Man to stay airborne longer and make longer jumps than usual. These little bugs were fixed in later games, however.
  • Battling the Pop-pup enemy from Mega Man Battle Network plays like a game of whack-a-mole, so pausing lets you spot him without the need for lightning fast reflexes. The fight with Drillman.exe is similar.
    • Also Chaos Unisons in 5. They let you use darkchips without lowering your max HP, but as a charge attack that constantly shifts between being safe and very dangerous to use. So, pause the game. If the charge orb is purple, take your finger off the button.
  • Metroid Fusion:
    • There is one missile expansion that cannot normally be skipped, which is a problem for 0% runs. The only way to avoid this expansion is with an extremely specific shinespark (a sort of flying dash performed by storing a Speed Booster dash and releasing it later) maneuver. In normal gameplay, getting the up-to-three second (180 frame) shinespark charge to last long enough to perform it in the correct place is impossible, but with repeated pausing, it's possible to gain the frame-perfect control needed nullify the momentum in the jumps needed to get to the point where the shinespark would have to be performed and get the entire travel time from entering the shinespark charge state (by crouching while in the middle of using the Speed Booster, which requires a significant run-up) to actually performing the shinespark down to as little as 173 frames, leaving only seven frames of error.
    • The game also seems to support a technique akin to "microwaving", as seen in this Tool-Assisted Speedrun near the 13:37 mark.
  • Minecraft has a pause menu accessed by pressing the Escape key. One can change the game's difficulty to Peaceful (no monsters and perpetually regenerating health) if the player is assaulted by a monster while the player is at low health.
  • In any battle in Mount & Blade whether you are fighting in a battlefield or sieging/defending a castle, you can notably increase the number of troops on your side making attacking armies that are 7 times your size a walk in the park. The battle size can be changed from anywhere between 30 to 150, so you start a battle with the minimum size -pause- then set the size to max, you then unpause for a second and pause again so you get a decent number of reinforcements and the enemies get nothing, reset the battle size to the minimum and the enemy only get reinforcements in small groups after most of them are down.
  • In Neverwinter Nights, you could use this trick to get extra xp during the prelude by running past all the monsters to the two characters who give auto-level ups at the end of their dialogue trees, then turning around and slaughtering all the enemies before leaving the prelude, though doing the second level up is very difficult without using a speed hack or a fast movement spell to allow you to pause click through his entire dialogue tree before his attack scripts triggered.
  • In Ninja Saga, you are allowed to change weapons in the pause screen during battle. Different weapons give different bonuses to dodging, criticals, and some other boosts, but the most powerful weapons (at least, the most powerful you can get without paying in real world money) have no bonuses. So a cheap advantage you can get is to equip the weapons that have bonuses while you're using moves, and go back to using the strong weapons when you run out of chakra.
  • Defied in most Picross games, as the game will hide the puzzle when you pause it so as to prevent you from cheating the timer. Howevcer, Picross S only shows the pause menu over most of the puzzle but not all of it, allowing you to somewhat employ this trope.
  • In Summer Carnival '92 Recca, the time counter will continue to tick while the game is paused. If this seems irrelevant outside of Score Attack and Time Attack (which resemble the Caravan modes of Star Soldier): The game hands out a game over after 60 minutes. Justified, as the game was developed for an event and not as a consumer title.
  • In Rock Band 3, when the player pauses and unpauses in the middle of a song, the track scrolls back a few bars to help the player catch up after a pause, which can be abused to split up a really hard track into smaller, manageable sections. While this has never been outright fixed, the game was eventually patched so that players who pause often will have their scores nullified.
  • In Siege Tank Defense engaging and disengaging Siege Mode is possible even during a pause, bypassing any delays that would be in effect in regular gameplay. In addition, cooldown between shots ticks down when the game is paused too, which results in a ridiculous firerate limited only by the overheat system (overheating entails no permanent damage to equipment or adverse effects beyond being unable to shoot for a while, making it a true reloading time). Abusing pause leads to a pattern of shooting down lesser enemies until heat gauge is almost filled, then finishing with a siege mode shot that always overheats the barrel anyway.
  • In the SNES version of SimCity, the money underflow glitch depended on keeping time frozen between closing the (unmodifiable) yearly budget screen and opening (and modifying) the player-invoked budget screen. Pausing could also be abused in the Boston scenario to bulldoze the three nuclear power plants before they could explode.
  • In the special stages of Sonic Rush, Sonic Rush Adventure, and the DS version of Sonic Colors, you control Sonic using the touchscreen. By moving the stylus across the screen, you move Sonic around to the left and right. The thing is, Sonic doesn't actually move towards where you're touching, he just instantly appears at any spot you touch. So if you're having trouble, you can pause the game, touch the area you want Sonic to be at, and unpause to have him appear there much faster than you would normally be able to move your hand.
  • In the PS3/Xbox 360 versions of Sonic Unleashed, the QTE prompts aren't hidden when you pause the game, so if you pause right when a prompt shows up it gives you time to prepare yourself to hit the right buttons. This is helpful in the Tornado Defense stages because it can allow you to nail almost all of the prompts (The Egg Cauldron fights can still be nuts with so much stuff being thrown at you).
  • Defied in StarCraft multiplayer, as each player can pause the game only 3 times. But it's used in its speedruns, where an open system menu doesn't give much advantage now that the action is paused per se. What it does is stopping the timer ticking, while not preventing progression of scripted engine scenes audio dialogue. It's just that sometimes next player actions have to come after the dialogue finishes.
  • In the series finale of Stargate SG-1, the team thought they could pull this off for real (to them) using Asgard technology to avoid Ori weapons by stopping time to figure out what to do. Unfortunately they soon got themselves into a near-unwinnable situation with the beam too near to avoid. In the end, they still sort of make it work by learning how to rewind time in the lifetime they spend on pause, but they never try it again.
  • Defied in the Caravan modes in the Star Soldier series. The timer will continue to run down while the game is paused.
  • Startopia: If you get a message about a Time Bomb planted on your station, there's always an option to hit pause, and look around with all the action frozen, until you locate where it is. Then unpause, beam it up and throw it into the refinery, good times.
  • The slow-motion feature of the TurboGrafx-16 joystick basically just paused and unpaused the game rapidly. There was a glitch in their version of Street Fighter which prevented computer-controlled fighters from attacking immediately after unpausing, which meant that playing in slow-motion made the human player unbeatable.
  • Super Metroid:
    • The game has a slow fade between gameplay and the pause screen (and vice-versa), during which gameplay continues for a second, but Samus's death at 0 health cannot be triggered during the transition. This has been used in a TAS with frame-perfect repeating pausing and careful rationing of health from a Reserve Tank to keep Samus alive through health-draining heated rooms.
    • Using the X-Ray Scope will freeze time, but not the Mercy Invincibility timer of some of the bosses. If used while these bosses are being hit by a plasma shot, this allows damaging them multiple times with the shot, a technique known as "microwaving".
    • While underwater, pausing at the right time while jumping with the Gravity Suit, and unequipping it, allows the player to abuse the game physics to "gravity jump", jumping higher than the game would normally allow.
  • In Super Monkey Ball, rapidly toggling the pause can help immensely for staying centered over a narrow bridge. Also, there exists a speedrunning technique where the player tries to pauses with the timer showing a specific number, and uses that as a cue to start moving or change direction, doing sequence breaks or slipping past moving obstacles far more easily than reflexes would allow.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • In the first game, if you pause after every frame of movement, then the on-screen timer won't clock forward. This makes it possible to complete the Break the Targets and Board the Platforms challenges with a time of 0:00.
    • The Classic Mode prizes in the 3DS game are determined by roulette. You can press the Home button to pause the entire game, and when you see that it's on the prize you want, you can simply hold down the A button before returning to the game to get it.
  • Tetris:
    • Pausing results in all the blocks to be obscured from the playfield and the "next block" window(s) to be blanked out, so you get no extra time to think over where to put the next block.
    • The TI-84 calculator version tries to do the same thing by covering the screen like all other versions do, but upon unpausing, the block you are controlling will float in midair for a few seconds, allowing you to take your time preciseply placing every block... until you reach a certain level, where no matter how you played the game, the game will no longer accept any button input and just drop blocks until you get game over.
    • In the NES version, holding left and right while the pause screen is open can max out horizontal acceleration, carrying over when you unpause. This trick is extremely helpful at level 19 and above, where blocks fall normally at drop speed and just getting blocks over to an edge can be impossible if you don't plan ahead.
  • Pretty much the only way to beat the Dash Circuit minigames in 3D Dot Game Heroes
  • In Trials of Mana, it was discovered that the charge-up time between selecting a skill or spell and its actual execution continues to elapse even when the player accesses a menu; thus the player can select a spell then switch to their menu so the character doesn't take damage before the spell executes. However, this also works on enemies preparing spells to attack you with....
  • Twisted Metal 2 implemented the pause feature in an odd way. Your car and the enemy cars would stop dead as expected, but projectiles would continue as normal, the sole exception being the ricochet bomb. With timely use of the pause button you could land every single Roadkill boomerang, every single Sweet Tooth ice cream cone, every single freeze missile, break out of a Mr. Slam infinite freeze missile loop, blow up opponents with their own mines (because the delay before they arm didn't stop when the game was paused, of course) and avoid running into projectiles fired in front of you. The list goes on. Conversely, you could also die during the pause screen.
  • In The Unfinished Swan, pausing brightens the screen a bit. This can be useful for spotting Balloons in the forest.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles and its sequel, the unit you are controlling, (and only the unit you are controlling) will be exposed to suppression fire, whether he or she is stationary, behind cover, or moving. However, enemies will mysteriously cease fire the moment you take aim. This leads to one or two different playstyles. The player will usually either run fast, shoot, and stop controlling the character; or walk, aim, walk, aim, walk, aim.... When Valkyria Chronicles got a re-release for Steam, Nintendo Switch, and Playstation 4, this was patched out by letting the enemy continue shooting at you until the aiming reticle actually appears. This change would also be retained in Valkyria Chronicles 4, though it was implemented a little more smoothly due to actually being a designed function from the get-go, rather than a later change to an already designed system.
  • In Xenogears, during games of Speed the computer can put down cards very quickly and always seems to get the best hands. Good thing you can even the odds a bit by pausing every so often to see what cards you can play.
  • In the NES game Xexyz, there are a number of auto-scrolling flying segments, and most bosses use Bullet Hell-style attacks. Pausing repeatedly can give you more time to react to oncoming obstacles and projectiles.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Pause Abuse


"If Fallout was Real" by SMOSH

Smosh parodies the Fallout games. Two thugs ambush the Player Character, who enters the games' VATS system immediately to pause the game & get an advantage. The two thugs discuss this while its happening.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / PauseScumming

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