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Perfect Play A.I.

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"Computers cannot be indecisive. Computers can think faster than any biological organism currently known. Computers take their knowledge base from the knowledge of all species, not just one. They are smarter than you, faster than you, more patient than you."
Lt. Commander Constrev, Star Trek: The Kobayashi Maru

What is it like to challenge a perfect opponent?

Perfect Play AI is a type of Video Game A.I. most commonly found in Fighting Games that correctly blocks or evades every attack and move the player is capable of performing against it, while slowly approaching the player to attack (often backing the player into a literal corner in the process). They were first popularized by the Mortal Kombat series, but have become a recurring AI type in other fighting games, which are often so Nintendo Hard that it seems unfair (even when the computer is not actually cheating), possibly even invincible.

The AI's attack strategy is actually quite simple but excruciatingly effective: The AI has been carefully programmed to avoid making any "unsafe" actions that would provide a clear opportunity for a human opponent to damage them. This includes:

  • Correctly blocking and/or evading attacks which the player executes against it;
  • Never executing jump attacks, rolls, or any other movement that would obviously preclude it from defending against the player;
  • A full knowledge of the game's Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors, such as which attacks can counter which moves (like using a Shoryuken to counter a jump attack, a weak-but-fast jab to prevent a Megaton Punch or Unblockable Attack from executing);
  • If it possesses a Counter-Attack move, knowing how to time these counters to maximum effect to trap and punish the player's attacks as often as possible.
    • Conversely, if the player possesses a Counter-Attack move, the AI may know how to avoid falling victim to it.

It's important to note that, generally speaking, the Perfect Play AI is not technically cheating: All of the above moves and tactics are perfectly legitimate, i.e. a sufficiently skilled human player could perform such a strategy themselves to best their opponent. The AI's main advantage here is that Computers Are Fast, and it can execute these actions with split-second timing and pixel-perfect precision. Whereas a human opponent must visually deduce and predict what their opponent is about to do next, an AI can immediately and directly identify whatever action (movement, attack/defend, etc.) the player is currently performing, even if different moves have similar tells that would confuse a human player.

Of course, it's also possible that some Perfect Play A.I.s are also cheating bastards, but exactly how to distinguish whether or not this is the case is a difficult matter. The AI may be able to predict the player's movements after a button press, even before a distinct animation occurs on-screen. In games where Defeat Means Playable, a player can compare whether the character in question handles the same in the player's hands as it did in the AI's. For example, if a character has a special attack that requires holding "down" for a full second before executing, a human player is left vulnerable while preparing it (as they cannot move while crouched), but if the AI can execute it immediately with no preparation, then that is a sign of cheating bastardry. However, if the AI is a unique opponent, it may be impossible to ever determine whether the AI was actually cheating, or if the boss character was just Purposely Overpowered.

There are few reliable ways to defeat the Perfect Play AI in a fight. One method is to relentlessly attack the AI with Combos and special attacks (ranged or otherwise) that utilize Scratch Damage even when blocked; this will slowly wear down the AI and defeat it via Death of a Thousand Cuts. Another method is to simply fight fire with fire: Memorize the AI's attacks over time and learn to perfectly block and/or Counter-Attack whatever move the AI chooses to perform, which may create an opening (no matter how small) to strike back. Most Perfect Play A.I.s have a flaw in their AI routine somewhere, and once the player learns to exploit that to their advantage, the playing field becomes level.

...right up until you run into a human opponent who knows what they're doing, and get completely destroyed. And there's the chief problem with this AI behaviour: it will absolutely wreck your reflexes or worse, your very knowledge of what works and what doesn't; against AI that's immune to fakeouts or any sort of coherent strategy, one that brutally punishes any sort of proactive play, you wind up forced into a purely reactive playstyle that will usually get you, as the parlance goes, bodied by more human-experienced players running on deeper mindgames and sustained offensive momentum.

Compare and contrast the SNK Boss, a videogame AI whose difficulty arises primarily from the fact that it is a cheating bastard. A Tool-Assisted Speedrun is when the player does this, by playing the game frame-by-frame to create a replay that is theoretically perfect.


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    Action Adventure Games 
  • Boss battles with Jeanne from Bayonetta see her acting relatively sedate from far away, usually content to pepper you with gunfire or launch a super-attack or two your way. However, she's always closing distance between Bayonetta and herself or waiting for you to come to her, and once the gap is closed she begins busting out lengthy and hugely damaging combos with very little breathing room between her attacks. On the harder difficulties, she drops this tactic and just starts tearing you apart from across the room.
  • Devil May Cry:
    • Vergil from Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening is close to, but not a true Perfect Play AI. He will parry and counter your attacks, but you can dodge and counter his attacks.
    • Devil May Cry 4 has a number of examples:
      • With some of his styles, Dante does the same as Vergil from before. The most effective way to beat him is walk to him while shooting, causing Dante to do the same, then quickly attacking with Devil Buster once in range. You can also sit on top of the altar in the room: due to a Good Bad Bug he'll repeatedly try to jump up to get to you, leaving himself wide open to the Devil Buster every single time without fail.
      • On Dante Must Die, Berial becomes like this. Going to face him head-on suicidal. The secret to beating him is to do these things: 1. Use your fully charged gun on him as much as possible. 2. Hit him with your sword immediately after he does a lunge attack. Go for the sides and hindquarters. 3. The moment his flames drop, go berserk with devil trigger, especially trigger-enhanced buster (Nero's demon arm).
      • The Angelo Credo fight is a good example of this trope as well. Most of the time, he will advance steadily towards you or hurl spears at you. His sword attacks are a bitch to dodge (so quick you don't see them), and unless you nail the timing, attempts to grab him will either fail, or do very little damage.
      • Some mooks also do this, such as the Angelo enemies. Alto Angelo will block your hits a lot and often your attempts at grabbing them result in a No-Sell.
      • In the Special Edition, Vergil as a playable character is meant to be played like this. His Concentration meter fills by walking slowly towards the enemy and making no wasted moves.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Final Boss of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is an example that predates even the more infamous fighting (i.e. MK) examples: Dark Link aggressively advances toward the player and tries to attack whichever position (high or low) the player isn't currently guarding against; and when the player attacks, Dark Link merely counters with his shield in the appropriate position. He is remembered for having one flaw in his AI ("duck and stab") because he sometimes counters a low strike with a jump, which leaves his legs open to attack.
    • Dark Link in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, being a Shout-Out to the original, mirrors Link's sword attacks (almost) perfectly, causing nothing more than clashing blades; Dark Link is also opposite-handed from normal Link, adding to the 'mirror' effect. He backflips to counter Link's charged spin attack, and if the player attempts to make a thrust attack, counters by jumping on Link's sword and striking back. For the first half of the battle he doesn't even attack at all, but merely stands back and counters Link's moves. But he actually doesn't counter much else; items such as Bombs, Deku Nuts, Din's Fire and especially the Megaton Hammer make dealing with Dark Link a lot easier.
    • Hyrule Warriors: Some levels in Adventure Mode, "quiz" fights in particular, will pit you against characters who will guard against almost every attack you throw at them. You need to wait for the opportunity to break their weak point gauge or find the opportunity to interrupt their attacks.
  • Used to awesome effect by Albert Wesker in Resident Evil 5. Walks forward menacingly, instantaneously flashstepping bullets and knife attacks unless he can't see them coming, either by attacking him from behind while he's unaware of you or by throwing a flashbang. Also inverted, if you decide to fight him rather than time out the level; nearly all of his melee attacks can be brutally countered if you're fast enough (the partner combo attacks are a big part of this), and his attacks very briefly leave him vulnerable to gunfire.
  • The optional second boss fight against Darth Vader in The Force Unleashed. He stops playing around with Force telekinesis to demonstrate his mastery of lightsaber combat.
    • He's also kind of this in Starkiller's duel with him in the sequel. He's a Mighty Glacier that takes very little damage from all of your attacks, blocks all of your Force moves (even going into Force Fury mode only damages him a small amount) and he has two health bars.
    • The prologue level of the first game inverts this by having you play as Darth Vader while he leisurely strolls through a Wookiee village and nonchalantly massacres everything in sight. It's every bit as brutally awesome as it sounds.

    Beat'em Up Games 
  • Several bosses and some Elite Mooks in the Streets of Rage series, fan remake included. Some foes will always back up out of your reach the minute you try to advance on them to attack (but will gladly advance on you the minute you turn and walk the other way), backing up off the screen where you can't hit them, but they can hit you. You also have enemies that will stop moving or sidestep your special attacks and will follow up with a counter. Then there are enemies that will knock you out of the air if you try to attack them with a jump attack. To top all of this off, most enemies in the later levels will combo you and team up on you where their attacks take priority over your own attacks.

    Fighting Games 
  • Mortal Kombat is famous for this, and is why the trope used to be called the "MK Walker"; an AI opponent on this mode would simply walk over to the player, blocking or dodging any attack with inhuman frame precision and, upon reaching the player, execute a perfectly-timed, unblockable move (usually a throw). Hence "MK Walker". Game-specific examples include:
    • Mortal Kombat II: All characters at hardest setting, though not on the PlayStation port.
    • This becomes even more blatant in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat 4, and the N64 version of Mortal Kombat Trilogy.
    • Mortal Kombat 3 on the Game Boy has it too, but in this case the Walkers are surprisingly vulnerable to uppercuts. Hope you enjoy doing nothing but uppercuts. Shang Tsung can be murder for this; sometimes, in a single motion, the CPU will transform into a new character and perform the counter-attack that character knows.
    • Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3:
      • Jade. When you play as her, the projectile protection special has to be activated by Back > Forward > High Kick command. When AI plays as her, if you try a projectile attack on her, most of the time she will activate the special at the exact moment you input the projectile move, while running towards you and without stopping at all, and then rip you a new one before you can block anything.
      • Smoke is impossible even on Very Easy. If you send a long range attack or projectile towards him, he will instantly teleport uppercut you infinitely. Before there's even an animation, he's already killed you. When you play as Smoke, the computer instantly dodges teleporting moves.
    • Quite possibly the most hilariously broken instance of this came in the less-than-stellar GBA port of MK3, Mortal Kombat Advanced. Due to how sloppily the game was programmed a lot of special attacks lack any sort of cooldown, which the computer abuses to the fullest extent. The two worst offenders are Scorpion and Jade who will stunlock characters to death with Spear and Teleport Punch bombardments and rapid-fire Shadow Kick juggles respectively on ANY difficulty level. Jade can sometimes get so hyper-aggressive that she executes specials and fatalities on top of each other,confusing the game and leading to a softlock.

  • In Arcana Heart 3 in score attack mode Parace L Sia returns from the previous game, and combines this with SNK Boss into one of the most unholy fusions imaginable.
  • As a boss character based on counter moves, BlazBlue's Hakumen rather sensibly fights this way. If you're not careful, he may well counter you into a Astral Finish. Depending on your character and playstyle, he can make the game's actual SNK Boss v-13 feel weak and anticlimactic in comparison.
    • In Score Attack mode, everyone turns into Perfect Play A.I.s. Instant Blocking all your attacks and escaping your throws before launching you into a 20+ hit combo the instant you do something unsafe. And then you have to fight Unlimited Nu, Unlimited Rachel and Unlimited Ragna in this mode. And if Unlimited Ragna hits you with the right counter, he will super drain over 2/3 your life and heal over half his already 3 times over health bar.
      • Extend ups the ante with "Unlimited Mars" mode. Everything above, and EVERYONE is in their unlimited mode. The unholy fusion of SNK Boss and Perfect Play AI.
  • In Digimon Rumble Arena, Reapermon was capable of instantly winning with just one combo: Charging forward with Grim Slasher, a multi-hit special, followed by Bone Duster, another multi-hit special. His super meter will be full after this, allowing him to follow up with Burning Cyclone immediately. His opponent will be dazed after this, which Reapermon will exploit for another Grim Slasher -> Bone Duster combo. He'd probably use another finisher and keep repeating if the player's health wouldn't already be 0 at this point. His AI could pull this even in easy mode. And to top it all off, Reapermon becomes playable after just one playthrough.
  • The highest-level AI's in Dissidia Final Fantasy are made of this trope; they will easily predict and block or dodge almost any attack, while attacking instantly and fatally as soon as you get anywhere near them. Your only real chance is to block at random times, hope they do something blockable to you, and attack them instantly while they reel back (a time span which is, naturally much shorter than yours would be).
  • Unlock the 'Z3' difficulty in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai and every enemy in the story becomes this.
  • In Eternal Fighter Zero, final boss Kanna fits this trope quite well at the higher difficulties. Her AI will block practically every attack you throw at her, and her range, attack speed, and priority will rock you when she gets close. Ayu also has some of this trait on the highest difficulty.
  • Probably other SNK Bosses, but Geese Howard from Fatal Fury fits this trope best.
  • Killer Instinct. If you do any kind of move that has more than 5 frames and doesn't hit the opponent, the AI will rush in, do a special which goes straight through your attack, and then follow up with a flawless 8-hit combo. All at the exact moment you press the button. There's a reason we call Nintendo Hard "Nintendo Hard."
    • Much less prevalent in Killer Instinct 2, where the game mechanics are much friendlier and give you many opportunities to counter the AI. The Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors nature of how combo openers work in KI2 is probably the easiest thing you can use to this effect, and combo breakers are much easier, so the AI popping off its perfect combos is no longer your death knell. In fact, if you don't have the reflexes to do the breaker correctly on purpose, you still have a fifty-fifty chance of getting it by guessing.
    • The 2013 KI game has the "Kyle" difficulty level, which is full of input-reading and combo breaking. The game's True Final Boss, Shadow Jago, will always be set to this difficulty.
  • The King of Fighters:
    • Kasumi Todoh in most versions that she is playable in. Her fighting style is based on returning physical attacks with her counter stances. If controlled by a Expert level CPU, she will slowly approach the player while instantly countering moves that make physical contact and doing a reversal uppercut if the player tries to do a normal grab on her. She also has a unblockable move that works like a grab, so if you choose not to attack her when she reaches you, she'll use that. A nice addition is that if you try to stop her from advancing with projectiles she'll just stop, wait a while until you stop throwing fireballs, and taunt you.
    • Chin fights like this in The King of Fighters '97. However, it's fairly easy to work around it by jabbing at a distance and blocking his attack.
  • In The Last Blade, the boss, Kagami, is a Perfect Play AI in his first form.
    • Then again this is a trait most SNK Bosses share.
  • Cyber-Akuma from Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter is a abnormally fast Perfect Play AI. His preferred method of attack is to launch a missile from a screen's distance, then dash in close as you block high, deliver a lightning-fast low kick and chain it into a super attack. When he air jumps, he unleashes 2 fireballs down at you. The only way to beat him is by piling on the projectiles but he readily throws his own to counter yours. If he closes the distance between you, it's pretty much over.
  • Word of God has stated that Twilight does so in My Little Pony: Fighting Is Magic.
  • ''One Must Fall':
    • Several of the superbosses, especially Devan Shell. To make things worse, One Must Fall has block damage off by default (and you need a cheat code to turn it on).
    • All the arcade mode opponent on Ultimate difficulty. Luckily, they don't handle special move cancelling well.
  • The old One Piece: Grand Battle series of games on the Gamecube and PlayStation 2, mostly the final one which was released only in America: Grand Adventure. The opponent AI is actually pretty dumb on normal and hard difficulty, but hardest? Hoo boy. You might as well be playing with a handicap against you; the AI no longer gets stunned when caught in a combo (so they can attack you between punches, meaning slow Mighty Glacier characters are next to useless), they're programmed to immediately grab or use a guard breaker the second you press the block button, and the ones with counter attacks will use them perfectly without fail. What's worse is that, unlike most fighting games, they often will outright have double your health, strength, and defense even when it defies common sense. The only way to win is to spam aerial attacks, items, and super attacks and hope you don't die (though throwing items no longer works either, since they have perfect timing and will catch them no matter what position they're in and throw it back at you).
  • Soulcalibur:
    • The AI in Soulcalibur 3 can sometimes do this when it's going all out. It can read your buttons, and (when it's at its best, like on Dancing Statues Hard) it can counter moves with its inhuman reflexes. Worse, it gets faster based on how much you press the button, even blocking. So if you block too long, the computer goes into a berserk rage, conveniently attacking in a way that gets around your block and is simply too fast to counter.
    • It's back with a vengeance in Soulcalibur 5. The AI has no problem executing just guards (which block practically any attack but require insane timing) at any time, can pull off Ivy's notoriously difficult Calamity Symphony throw at the drop of a hat, and can make grown men weep when controlling Alpha Patroklos (who is easily the hardest character to use, once again due to the ridiculous timing he requires, but when mastered...).
  • Street Fighter franchise examples:
    • If you set the difficulty to the hardest level on certain Street Fighter II games, nearly every character becomes a Perfect Play AI. Characters with invincible reversals, such as the Shotos and Guile, will read your inputs and counter appropriately with a Shoryuken or Flash Kick. Zangief will pull out his Spinning Piledriver at the worst possible times, magically vaccuming you into his clutches from absurd ranges. If you go up against a character with a multiple-hitting throw, such as Dhalsim's noogie or Balrog's head bash, then the computer will mash out the inputs at speeds which are physically impossible for humans to attain, meaning you will never be able to break out AND the computer will always get the fastest possible version of those throws with the maximum amount of hits and damage.
    • Street Fighter Alpha 2's Shin Akuma on any setting and to a lesser extent SFA 3 Akuma on medium and up are terrible about this. His Perfect Play AI routine consists of walking psychic shoryukens (or Dragon Punches - DP for short) combined with tick throws, the result being that you're afraid to poke with anything, because no matter what you poke with, or how you set it up, the comp will just read your buttons and DP you out of it. If you block, the computer will just tick throw you out of it. If you are expecting the tick and try to reverse the throw, you'll get psychic DP'ed (since you're performing a throw/attempt and not really blocking). Try to perform a reversal and you'll be thrown. Occasionally (and Ryu will do this as well, though not with all the other stuff Akuma adds in), if you get the reversal, Akuma will actually block, then throw a reversal DP on the tail end of yours.
    • Street Fighter Alpha 3: Final Bison. With or without Final Psycho Crusher he's still incredibly annoying with this.
    • Super Street Fighter II X/Super Turbo: Akuma/Gouki. On eight stars, he becomes the cosmic overlord of this trope.
    • Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha: This is noticeable fighting Akuma/Shin Akuma on harder difficulties.
    • Street Fighter IV's Seth is an SNK Boss with this. It's fairly easy to beat him at first, but once you finish Round 1 he gets up and says "I Let You Win". Cue this trope in full force.
  • In Super Cosplay War Ultra, Shin-Z is particularly adept at this. Manage to knock him down? He'll block as soon as he gets up to prevent a follow-up attack. Try to attack him from a distance? He'll start spamming high-priority projectiles non-stop to pin you down while he slowly advances towards you. Manage to jump over the projectiles and air dash in his direction? Genocide Cutter to the face. Manage to get right up next to him somehow? Enjoy an unblockable grab attack, that he'll usually chain into a super grab attack. Sometimes it seems like the only way to hit him is when he tries to use his super when he doesn't have enough EX bars for it, stunning him for a brief second (then again, this is a flaw with all the bosses in the game.)
  • The Level 9 CPU's in Super Smash Bros. are also made of this trope. While they're not very good at actual tactics , their reflexes on dodges, grabs, power-shields, and counter-attacks (for characters who have them) are impeccable. Dealing with the AI usually boils down to waiting for them to make a stupid move on their own and then capitalizing on it before they go on the defensive again.
    • Thought Level 9 was hard? Try fighting a Level 50 amiibo. At this point, the AI will perfect-shield and punish any laggy attack or vulnerable recovery you make. In fact, its reaction time alone is enough to beat several professional players in a tournament.
      • This is made less impressive by the fact that high-level amiibos are also cheating bastards, given they always do more damage than a human-controlled character does, for no particular reason.
    • It's been found that the Level 9 CPUs are legitimately this trope; they're always reading inputs and always ready to react at a moment's notice, and by all technicality, the only reason the lower levels are easier is because a randomizer sometimes stops their inputs, with higher chances the lower you go to the point of seeming brain dead. In reality, they're calculating everything you do at 9 the entire time and were built as Perfect Play AI to begin with as playing at the highest difficulty all but removes this random chance. Though there are some A.I. Breaker strategies and some characters they dip into Artificial Stupidity with.
    • Kazuya Mishima's Lv 9 AI is so good that it's been featured as an opponent in actual tournaments, even getting some wins over professional Smash players.
  • The Sega Genesis Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters had Karai as the last boss. If you tried to stand back, she would spam projectiles you couldn't jump over. If you tried to get close, she would knock you down, then throw you repeatedly with absolutely no window of opportunity to move or escape between throws. This was at difficulty setting 1. It went up to 8.
    • She was much worse in the SNES edition. Air superiority in the form of a leaping multi-hit attack, similar to E. Honda's Hundred-Hand Slap, and she had the best jump in the whole game. She could easily clear most of the screen in one leap. And she "walked" rather fast. Trust me, she was bad, bad news.
  • As you gain ranks in Tekken this will become self-evident, with the game starting to break out the ten-hit or infinite combos, reading controller inputs, using the classic Mortal Kombat slide along the ground, and begin preventing you from tagging out, specifically targeting your partner when low on health. Earlier in the series, the computer would resort to Secret AI Moves to simulate difficulty.
  • Taken to its logical conclusion in M.U.G.E.N. Being a Fighting Game maker, AI patches are readily available for most popular characters to bestow them with such an AI. Many SNK Boss characters come with such an AI built in. At the most extreme levels of cheap character creation, this trope and blatantly overpowered movesets combine to produce characters whose main strategy is simply to chain invincible sidesteps as long as the opponent has a hitbox active, and when the opponent is open, teleport in and finish them off with an absurdly long and damaging combo.

    First-Person Shooters 
  • Perfect Dark features the Dark Sims in multiplayer, who combine this with The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard. The Dark Sims can teleport at will, fire (or punch) at a faster rate than a human, and have nearly instant reload times. On top of that, they seem to peak out of corners right when you're coming around them and blast you with just enough frames for them to get back into cover. To the game's credit, it tells you that the Dark Sims can do all of this before you pick them, so at least you were warned.
    • That said, for all their invincibility and infallibility they have a single weakness...mines. That is they cannot detonate remote mines. They'll see you first and throw a remote mine right on/at you, but they cannot detonate them. This will allow you to kill them (there is a good chance the detonation will trigger the mines they threw on you, but you will at least be able to kill them).
  • QuakeI didn't implement the trope, but was one of the first games where developers created bots to simulate players. For example, the Reaper bot. While it can't read your input, it could hear you from anywhere on the map, had dead perfect aim (emphasis on "dead"), a reaction time measured in milliseconds, and could dodge anything non-hitscan that you threw at it. As developer experience generally increased, later shooters and bot developers deliberately nerfed their bots to be less inhuman (outside of higher difficulty levels).

  • Dota 2
    • The bots, especially on Hard and Unfair difficulties, tend to be able to take turns stunning their victim, almost always landing the next stun as the previous stun wears off. Naturally, they do it even better than most professional teams. Doesn't stop them from making other serious tactical mistakes, but since most bot heroes include at least one stun, it can be extremely frustrating to be the one the bots pick on (which is typically done by choosing the most fragile target).
    • Another aspect of the bots' near-cheat level perfect play is their simulated reaction time to player actions, which is decided by the chosen difficulty level. On Unfair difficulty, it's nil. This means a Pudge who hooks an enemy hero out of a group will be instantly spotted and get a blink-stun in his face before the hook has even returned.
  • Heroes of the Storm bots are extremely good with the skillsets of certain heroes at higher difficulty levels. Combo Assassins like Alarak and Kel'Thuzad are consistently among the most awful to face as the AI can land their spell combos perfectly every time to wreck whatever's on the receiving end, while Zarya and Medivh can drop their protective abilities with perfect timing while hitting all of their skillshots. And, of course, they will attempt to chain-stun players whenever possible.
  • Inconsistent with League of Legends bots, particularly at intermediate level. An observable example is they evade Jinx's "Zap!" taser with perfect timing, even when fired while in stealth or otherwise out of sight. However, they stupidly run right into her "Flame Chomper" traps.

    Racing Games 
  • Many racing games feature computer opponents that can make perfect turns and almost never crash. Codemasters' Racedriver GRID attempted to correct this by having drivers who would sometimes spin out or plow into the barriers but it came across as looking extremely arbitrary instead of an actual miscalculation. "Rubberbanding" is the term used when the AI drivers will drive sloppily or slowly when they're ahead of you but then aggressively and faultlessly when they're trying to catch up.
  • The AI in Crash Team Racing is infamously this, to the point it actually works against it. The AI will follow the same perfect loop each lap, that is exactly the same unless hit by a projectile from another player, meaning if you plop an obstacle on that path they'll drive right into it even if they as a human driver would have spotted it a mile away. It's not even uncommon for AI drivers to drop an obstacle on the track that nobody hits, do a loop of the track, and gleefully drive into their own obstacle. A tried and true tactic to cheese the second boss Papu Papu is to just drop obstacles in the middle of the track during straightaways, as he drives down the dead center of the track whenever he isn't taking a turn.

    Rhythm Games 
  • In Guitar Hero III, Lou misses no notes for the most part (but read on), and often times throws attacks at you during your own attack phrases. The first attack phrase is on his side of the chart only, so no matter how good you are, he can throw one at your first attack phrase. Averted when you do somehow manage to get an attack and throw it at him, as he completely falls apart, even if the affected section could reasonably still be hit by a human player.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • The Tower of Infinity challengers in Blade & Soul are very challenging to face as their move sets are based on competitive Korean players. Unlike other enemies and players who follow a skill rotation, they react to keypresses, their skill and gear cooldowns reset after a few seconds, and can attack fast with no input lag. Players fast reflexes, high gear, a bit of luck, and/or a good internet connection just to have a chance to conquer the top floors.
  • Fortune Summoners has both the allied (there are 3 characters, the player control 1 and the AI the other 2, you can switch which you control at any point) and enemy AI do this with a few exceptions or flaws even on the lowest difficulty setting. Enemies dodge the instant an attack is made (even the lowliest of slimes), it is possible (for a lone character) to repeatedly attack them dozens of time and have them dodge every time perfectly, on perfect execution they will not have time to retaliate but neither will you ever hit them. The only way to actually hit an enemy is to use an attack type it cannot dodge, block and then retaliate (taking small amounts of damage and hoping they use a blockable attack) use the terrain to "confuse" them, attack from a range at which they cannot dodge (usually too close but some enemies can be made to dodge in a way that backfires with certain attacks) or to have multiple characters attack the same enemy at once. The AI can also see perfectly through the graphically fancy spell effects that block view and is not affected by the lag caused by such spells (which can introduce several seconds of delay into player commands). When casting spells X must be held down until a circle forms completely and then released to cast, premature release of the button disrupts the spell, the AI always takes exactly the minimum amount of time to cast a spell (minimizing chance of interruption) and never fails to fully form the spell circle. Furthermore the AI can instantly select any spell it knows unlike a human which has to spend time switching between books and desired spells until they reach the right one. The AI for Arche also never messes up a combo (which requires pressing multiple keys in order, with the right timing, and modified by position and situation).
  • Pokémon Black 2 and White 2: The Pokemon World Tournament, in spades. You face off against three out of seven gym leaders from their respective regional tournaments to claim the title of champion. Rules-wise it's simple. Gameplay-wise? not so much. Despite any combination of Pokemon you may bring (barring most legendaries), the game's AI will always match you up against opponents with Pokemon teams who have almost perfect type coverage and will absolutely stomp you if you are not prepared. Worse is that almost every opponent comes holding a berry that either heals them or weakens super-effective moves against them, or gems that strengthen their moves. Even worse than that opposing Pokemon don’t stay asleep or confused for nearly as long (one or two turns at maximum) as yours do, and their less accurate moves hitting almost one hundred percent of the time. Expect to have fun, especially when attempting the (arguably hardest) Johto leaders’ tournament.
  • Tales Series:
    • Valkyrie from Tales of Eternia. Not only is she an equal in close quarters to Reid, Farah, Ras, or Cless (the other superboss), she can guard-break you as well, interrupting any combo you initiate and opening her own routine. With flawless timing, of course. Without Rising Phoenix or Sonic Chaos, it's impossible to hurt her. Oh, and she has her own hi-ougi too, and it is mean.
    • Tales of the Tempest: The one thing the boss AI does well is block. If you are doing melee damage, you can be sure they're going to block and reduce your attack to Scratch Damage.
  • Yakuza 0 has a disco dancing minigame where the player can engage in dance-offs with other dancers. One opponent for these is Miracle Johnson, an Expy of Michael Jackson, and the dance-off is set to a song suspiciously similar to "Bad". Needless to say, Miracle will always get the highest possible score and there's no way to beat him. Fortunately, the substory this dance battle happens in continues on even after you lose.

    Simulation Games 
  • The Final Boss of ZX Spectrum / Commodore 64 darts sim 180 is Jammy Jim. You get first throw, and you'll need it because one blink and he'll 9-dart you. He misses his target about once in every fifty throws. It's quite telling that while you need to take two legs to beat everyone else, you can beat Jim with one.
  • This is the perfect way to describe the AI of the opponent planes during a dogfight in Carrier Aces, a SNES original plane simulation game. They evade away your attacks, follow you recklessly until you are right in the middle of their radar, alter their speed in such a way that you're perfectly in their orbit, then shoot at you without you being ever able to hit them afterwards thanks to the fact that you can't execute a turn. They are beatable but you have to take in consideration your speed, fuel and radar.
  • The Miis in Tomodachi Life have this in certain minigames, the most obvious case being vs Match, where they have nearly perfect memory as to where each picture was. Oftentimes, you'll only win vs Match because the AI basically let you win.

    Stealth Games 
  • In Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Null does this on harder difficulty modes. If you roll at him at just the right angle, though, he swipes at you with his sword, giving you a window in which you can pump a tranq dart into him.

    Turn-Based Strategy Games 
  • In the Worms series, CPU opponents on the highest settings are able to perfectly calculate bazooka shots to compensate for the wind, and can fire off grenades and related weapons such that they explode right as they hit the target worm. See that worm of yours that's on low health? Well, if the next "CPU: Good" AI opponent is able to make a trajectory to that worm with any of their weapons, and targets the hapless worm, that poor sap is already dead.

    Wrestling Games 
  • Def Jam Series: One "Boss" (all enemies operate the same way, but from the storyline some could be considered bosses) in Fight For New York starts out as this. You're supposed to avoid him until his ability wanes, but it is possible to counter all of his attacks.
  • This can happen in tag-team matches in some games in the WWE Smackdown vs. Raw series. If a computer player decides that they want to tag out, then 90% of the time your every attack will be countered, dodged, or ignored until this is done. It usually does not occur in other modes, however.
    • If the computer does not want to allow you to do a flying attack it will stop you, no matter what.
    • WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 has one of these, curiously enough for a wrestling game - the final fight in Edge's Road to WrestleMania story against Mr. Kennedy (KENNEDY!) sees Kennedy become an absolute perfect countering machine, who can recover from anything you throw at him in no time while being able to leave you lying with almost any grapple he uses.
      • This also happens in Randy Orton's RtWM, as part of an Hopeless Boss Fight; the lights go out and suddenly the Undertaker is standing right behind you. He is impossible to hurt, perfectly evading and reversing anything you attempt to do to him - and the objective changes from winning the match to escaping backstage.
      • In Day of Reckoning series, WWE games for the Gamecube, if the computer decides it's time to tag a partner, knock out the referee or go for a weapon don't expect to get any hits in. It will slowly walk to its destination as if there is a sunset in the background and counter every move you do even ones impossible to actually perform (e.g. countering a move while in the process of countering a move).
      • Face it, the game will simply glitch if it has to.

  • In the browsergame Estiah, the Chest Mimic is a turn based variation of this. This monster either uses 'Close', which gives it enough defenses to easily shrug off multiple attacks, or a few offensive moves which, despite stripping it of all defense, all give in an extra action (And unlike the player, the mimic is immune to the four action limit). This means that after hitting you a few times, the boss will always leave a wall of defense that is impossible to brute force through. However, its health is low enough that it's possible to use high penetration attacks to tick it to death, and Damage over Time moves will constantly hit during its undefended attack strings for massive damage.
  • Every opponent on every difficulty in Facebreaker.
  • In Sony's MLB: The Show baseball series, the computer pulls this stuff on both offense and defense.
    • When it's batting, the computer will suddenly make contact with almost every pitch, either fouling the ball away or getting a hit. This serves the purpose of either tiring out your pitcher faster or reducing your total score, since anything that isn't a three-pitch strikeout detracts from it.
    • When it's pitching, the computer will become amazingly accurate at hitting the strike zone once it's gotten two balls or more. The computer will also be able to sniff out a base-stealing attempt like a bloodhound.
  • In Professor Layton and the Last Specter, a few puzzles feature an AI opponent, in cases in which you have to force the opponent to make the last move. The opponent will always make the ideal move under the circumstances, and you must make the right decisions to force it into a situation in which it has no choice but to be defeated.
  • In Sid Meier's Pirates!, on higher difficulty levels and age, the Marquis de la Montalban becomes this. He will always perform the proper defense for your attack far faster than you can attack, with the net result being that the fight is literally Unwinnable.
  • Solved games allow for truly perfect play AI. For a game to be solved, it must have perfect information, a finite set of potential moves, and no random elements. More details on The Other Wiki, but consider Tic-Tac-Toe. The first player (because of the symmetrical play space) has three choices for their first mark; side, corner, or center. Depending on their play, the second player has a very small number of possible moves in response. As a result, a human with scratch paper can map the entire space of possible Tic-Tac-Toe games and write a perfect algorithm to play it flawlessly. Such an algorithm will always draw against perfect play and never loses. A clever grade-schooler can memorize how to play Tic-Tac-Toe flawlessly.
    • Checkers and Connect 4 have been solved. The algorithms are far too complex for humans to memorize. If a perfect play AI plays it, Connect 4 comes down to a coin-flip; the first player wins. Checkers is always drawn with two perfect play AI's playing; any mistakes, and the other player wins. Checkers is one of the largest solved games, with over 5 * 10^20 possible search spaces. If you want to be beaten remorselessly by a heartless machine at Connect 4, try it out here.
    • Chess and Go are not solved, but are solvable in principle by an computer orders of magnitude stronger than anything we've seen as of 2021. The search space for chess outstrips the number of particles in the known universe by multiple orders of magnitude, and Go dwarfs even that astronomical number.
    • How about Tabletop Game A.I.? Here we see a perfect Game of Nim played by a plastic analog machine where its clever construction allows it to always win.
    • Even a game with a random element can have an optimal strategy mapped out.
      • Blackjack, for example, has a perfect play algorithm for a situation where a player has not counted cards and therefore can't know what's left in the shoe. It produces a small edge to the casino; less than half a percent. Exploiting this was part of the strategy used by card-counting teams; they keep their costs low by playing very tight blackjack until the deck favors them.
      • Guess Who has a perfect play algorithm which gives first player a significantly better chance to win, but because the game has a random element, it cannot always win. In the mirror-match, the perfect AI wins on first turn about 2/3 of the time. Against untrained humans, the perfect play AI wins almost all the games. Watch, and the game will be spoiled.
  • In Touhou's Phantasmagoria games the AI has two settings: play as an idiot or as a god. After spawning the AI will dodge absolutely everything you throw at it, and this is obvious from the way it moves (erratic, seemingly suicidal moves around bullets but always stopping short of getting hit). This is temporary only, after a while the AI will switch to idiot mode and get quickly murdered. This is what makes up the game's timer system, where each level's objective is to survive long enough for the AI to end up killing itself.
    • The AI actually does have a flaw, but in this particular Touhou game you're unlikely to be able to exploit it before the opponent's invincibility period wears off (this is why people don't always realize there is an invincibility period, due to the aversion of The Law of Diminishing Defensive Effort). It only calculates bullet trajectories in its immediate vicinity and can fail to spot an completely inescapable pattern coming until it's too late to avoid it, where a human player would head for the other side of the screen seconds before.
  • The final boss of the puzzle game Wind And Water: Puzzle Battles, Shinji, is more difficult is comparison to the previous boss due to this trope. He makes the most effective possible combinations and dozen-long chains with every move he makes, gaining over 10000 points per minute. Nothing the average player ever thinks up will ever put a scratch on this guy, so most people are left hoping for some fluke to happen — twice in a row, since you have to win two rounds to beat him.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Generation AI can be quite strong, especially on harder campaign mode decks and weekly challenges, making incredible utilization of their decks.
  • Unwinnable Joke Game Zorba, in which all you can ever hope to do is tie against your CPU opponent, as it never makes a single mistake. This was apparently deliberate, as the game was made as sort of a commentary that winning against a CPU opponent most of the time is only possible because it lets you win (especially in rhythm games.)

    Non-game Examples 
  • In Dragon Ball Super, this is essentially how Ultra Instinct works and why it's so dangerous. Unlike other power-ups, it doesn't make the user any stronger; it just allows them to perform perfect play in the real world, reacting with such speed that consciously thinking about their actions would just slow them down. When Goku demonstrates it during the Tournament of Power, he's able to take on Jiren and Kefla by dodging every attack they throw at him and waiting for an opening to strike a devastating and perfectly-executed blow.
  • In Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, a show where video game villains come to life, one of the villains, Parado, is a homage to Super Mario rather than a typical villain. He proves to be by far the most skillful fighter of anyone in the show, handily dominating opponents who are ten times his level. The only fights he ever loses are against one opponent who can stop time at will, and one who has perfect invincibility. Appropriately, his powers come from a 2-in-1 cartridge of a puzzle game and a fighting game, the easiest genres to program for perfect play.
  • Agents from The Matrix videogame can be thought of as Perfect Play A.I.s within that particular game. Any gun attacks are automatically dodged while they walk towards the humans, and generally their kung fu is so much better than yours that there's little chance surviving if you let them reach you. Supposedly, Neo could beat them because he could "read" the patterns in the code and counter the AI... but the real-life player can't do this.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation "Peak Performance": during their rematch Data used this strategy against the Strategema master Kolrami, making a perfect play for a draw. This wore Kolrami out so much that he Rage Quit, giving Data the victory.
  • In The Art of War, Sun Tzu recommends "safe" approaches such as these in the following quote.
    "... the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself."
  • In Super Minion, Adder describes Tofu as always making the perfect move in every situation during a fight. This makes him a fearsome opponent for all but the most skilled opponents, but Adder knows exactly how to manipulate him because even reliably making the right choice is a kind of predictability.
  • Star Trek The Kobayashi Maru: The computer for the eponymous test is programmed to win at any cost. It starts with three Klingon ships vs. one Federation ship. If the applicant successfully evades or destroys the first three ships, it just generates a new wave with even more ships. It can upscale the effectiveness of the Klingon attacks while downscaling the damage a Federation ship can deal out. Cadet Kirk, using lateral thinking, doesn't try to outshoot the Klingon ships, but instead has the Klingon commander recognize him as "THE" Captain Kirk, and impressed with his "reputation" and presented with a request for aid, the Klingons actually render assitance to the wounded freighter at the heart of the simulation.