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Power Equals Rarity

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Let's face it: in Real Life, if a weapon is powerful, it's mass-produced. If an animal is powerful, it flourishes. If a nation is powerful, it can effectively Take Over the World.

That's not the case with games, though. Generally, for balancing purposes or Bribing Your Way to Victory, the more powerful an item/mon/etc. is in a game, the harder it is to find. While various reasons are given in the plot (if at all) as to why these things are so rare, in the meta-sense, it's for balance. If the player has unlimited access to game-changing stuff, then the game is tipped entirely in their favor.

This is seen most commonly in Role Playing Games, both tabletop and video, so that the character/party doesn't get so powerful the Big Bad is killed off as fast as a mook, and in collectible games, so that not every player has a game-breaker, and the number of game-breakers out there are limited. Sometimes, the rules of a game specifically will limit an item/mon/card/etc. to only one per player, preventing them from being used in bulk even by those players who are lucky (or loaded) enough to obtain multiple copies to begin with (this often happens retroactively after that item is banned).

Even in games where the creators actively say that rarity means crap in relevance to power, many people will still associate rarity with overall power, even when it isn't.

Interestingly, putting too much of the power in rare is actually extremely bad for a game, as it discourages newbies from buying into the game as they get beaten over and over again by people who own better cards than they, and discourages players from buying into the game in the first place.

The basic reasoning for this may come from, of all things, history and mythology, wherein the most powerful items, supposedly magical or knowingly mundane, were of exceptional quality, but very scarce. This is understandable, though, because the time, resources, and skill needed to create any weapon beyond a sharp stick or axe was great, and an exceptional weapon like Excalibur or Durandal could, realistically, be made only once in an artisan's lifetime (and was probably the most valuable item in a king's treasury for good reason). Another reason for an item's rarity might be that the owner has taken steps to ensure that its creator cannot repeat the work.

For a video game item that's exceptionally rare and powerful, it has a chance of being Too Awesome to Use in single-player gameplay and causing Loot Drama in multiplayer (especially in MMO games).

Contrast Junk Rare and Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage for the "rare" and "promo" inversions of this trope. Compare Game-Breaker for a retroactive application of this trope, for when something is so broken you might only be able to use one in a deck/army/etc. Often present in games with Level-Locked Loot. Related to Commonplace Rare, when a useful item that by all logic should be easy to get turns out to be extremely difficult. Subtrope of Quality vs. Quantity.

Has absolutely nothing to do with a certain fashion-designing unicorn.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Fairy Tail: Both subverted and played straight by the Golden Zodiac Keys. Although they are all unique, their power levels fluctuate wildly. Aries and Cancer, for example, are only useful for everyday tasks, and certain spirits like Virgo have highly specialized skills. Some of the spirits, however, can mimic a mage's entire power set, like Aquarius, Gemini, or Libra.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The anime takes power card scarcity to extremes. Pegasus kept one copy of Toon World for himself, as he found it too game-breaking to put into circulation, and created only four copies of the strongest normal monster in the game, the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Seto Kaiba, who had three cards, the maximum playable of any card in the game, tore up the fourth one so no one could play it against him, and he would be all but assured to have the strongest deck in existence. And outside of his dragons, Kaiba had even more rare power cards. Of course, all of this precedes the Egyptian god cards.
    • On the other hand, unspeakably broken cards like Mirror Force are found in pretty much everyone's deck, with nearly every character having used it at one time or another. The logic seems to be that Spell, Trap, and Virus cards follow typical amounts of rarity; however, MONSTER cards can be absurdly rare, to the point of only a handful existing in the world (such as the God Cards, The Blue-Eyes White Dragon cards, and Yugi's own Dark Magician & Jonouchi's Red-Eyes Black Dragon). Originally, the monster levels were an indicator of rarity — since Blue-Eyes White Dragon was level 8 and only FOUR existed, while the God Cards are each level 10 with 1 existing, one can imagine that Dark Magician and Red-Eyes Black Dragon are nearly as scarce as Blue-Eyes (in fact, another of Yugi's go-to monsters, Summoned Skull, is apparently so rare it surprised even KAIBA that he owned one). In fact, in the manga, while the Legs and Arms of Exodia are all listed as 1-star monsters (thus likely absurdly common), "Exodia the Forbidden One" is listed as a 7-star. Following the Stars-equal-Rarity logic where Blue-Eyes has only 4 copies total in the world, that means there may be as few as *8* copies of "Exodia the Forbidden One" in existence.
    • The spinoffs take it even further, with many characters using whole sets of cards that are evidently unique. In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, there was only one set of Neo-Spacians, one set of Destiny Heroes, one set of Cyberdarks, one set of Phantom Demons, one set of Gem Beasts, and one Super Fusion which is so powerful that it definitely creates the Fusion Monsters out of thin air. In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, there is only one of each Signer Dragon and their upgrades (the latter being created by the Crimson Dragon's power in the middle of duels), one of each Polar God, and one of each Earthbound God. The really weird bit is that none of the Duelists who played those myriad unique archetypes seemed to have any problem finding support cards for them. 5D's plays with this trope with "Zushin the Sleeping Giant", a card with extremely powerful effects compared in-universe to the God Cards, but whose impossible summoning condition makes it the epitome of Awesome, but Impractical (it was only ever summoned once in tournament play, and that was in a special format that made its summoning condition remotely feasible). It's listed as a mere Common card, and one scene shows everyone in the stadium bleachers holding their own copy up, meaning that Zushin is extremely cheap and widespread not in regards to its power but rather in regards to its (nearly nonexistent) usability.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL introduces the Numbers, a group of 100 Xyz Monsters that are created from the hearts of the Duelists who find the blank Number cards, thus almost every Number is designed to fit into the archetype of the original owner. In the anime, all Numbers have the effect that they cannot be destroyed by non-Number monsters in battle, which makes them particularly more powerful than most other Xyz Monsters. Chaos Numbers and cards created from Shining Draw are also unique since they are created by some magic power.

    Comic Books 
  • Blake and Mortimer: Subverted at the end of the first arc, where a single Swordfish is able to wipe out a considerable Thibetan fleet, signalling the beginning of the end for their empire. Basam Damdhu is about to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike on... pretty much the entire world, before an entire squadron of Swordfish shows up to blow up the nukes just before they launch.

    Fan Works 
  • Harry Potter and the Artificer Legacy: Artifacts are harder to create the more powerful they are. Of the five grades of Artifactsnote , even an Artificer's greatest creation is often only the third-highest grade. It's theorized that a Legendary Artifact was the cause of Atlantis's disappearance as magicals can't think of anything else that would wipe out a major city in an instant thousands of years ago.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Star Wars films, the Imperials favor Zerg Rush tactics with their starfighters, fielding the ubiquitous (and cheap!) but underpowered TIE fighters in mass numbers. Only a few VIPs like Vader are issued more advanced ships with survivability measures like shields. The Rebels, on the other hand, favor a small but Elite Army of X-Wings tricked out with shields and a more varied and powerful armament. The latter is Justified: less-advanced Rebel ships like the older Y-wings are destroyed early on, and unlike the Empire, the Rebels can't easily replace casualties of war. Though it also applies to the Empire side as far as their Death Stars are concerned: in the decades that the Empire was in power, they only made two (and the second was incomplete).

  • The Dresden Files justifies this by using explaining that the more people use a certain ritual, the less power one can draw from it. The White Council often publishes texts like the Necronomicon for the sole purpose of robbing them of their power.
  • Heralds of Valdemar inverts the trope. There's a good mix of Gifts in the world at all times, but most of them are low-level. Here, rarity equals power: Firestarters who can incinerate an army or Empaths whose range encompasses a country appear several generations apart (and never at the same time). It's a Justified Trope because the setting's magic is explicitly tied to what fate requires. The appearance of a prodigious Gifted is alarming for many Valdemaran monarchs because they know it's the gods' way of saying; "I gave you this Person of Mass Destruction because you're going to need them. Try not to die in whatever calamity is coming up."
  • The gonne (a prototype rifle) in Men at Arms is self-invoking with this trope. It's so dangerous that, owing to the Discworld's Background Magic Field, it became sentient and ensured that nobody could survive to make another weapon that could rival it.
  • Mind Games:
    • The System awards "Titles" to people when they do something unusual. Since Titles grant benefits (for instance, if you get the title Adamant for saving someone’s life by nearly losing your own, you become much harder to kill) they are much prized and people who have them are much respected. The harder it was to get the Title, the rarer it is, and the rarer it is, the more benefits it grants. Not one but two of the main characters have Unique Titles, which grant absolutely ludicrous benefits.
    • Similarly, one of them has a System Class no one else has, and the other has a System Skill no one else has (the Titles are for being the first to ever have the System Class/System Skill, which is why this combination is basically winning the Superpower Lottery.) And needless to say, both the Class and the Skill are somewhere between “Light Novel Hero Cheat” and “Game-Breaker,” or will be once they level up.
  • The Stormlight Archive: A Justified example in the case of Shardblades and Shardplate. Both are ludicrously powerful Magitek, but nobody remembers how to make them and there are a very limited number (such that a single Shard is worth enough to buy you a small country).
  • In There Was No Secret Evil Fighting Organization, each human (and a few species of primate) possess the potential for one esper power. 80% of the population have elemental powers- fire, ice, etc. These are definitely worth having, but it's in the other 20% that powers get weirder: invisibility, Time Stands Still, uber-healing that reverses age and cell death, clairvoyance, and the telekinesis that everyone else needs to get their own powers unlocked. One of the former could kill the latter, in the way that someone with a knife could kill someone with a gun...if they had the element of surprise and the gun wielder was alone. And if they weren't fighting the one telekinetic in the world, whose power is so advanced that he can project a perpetual, meteor-proof shield over his body. Life isn't fair.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This trope applies (roughly) to the weaponry being used in the Doctor Who episode ''Genesis of the Daleks. The Kaleds and Thals have been fighting for so long that they're running out of resources to make advanced weaponry and defences, and are being forced to rely on more primitive options.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Usually in Battle Spirits this is played straight, with some of the X-Rares being so powerful you wonder how they're legal. One of the strongest cards in the game is the two-of-a-kind Amaterasu-Dragon. Though, it's worth noting that there are some pretty lethal common cards that could turn the game around, like Dream Ribbon and Angel Voice, the latter of which is one of the cards Amaterasu Dragon is weak against.
  • The Dragonball Z CCG by Score Entertainment ran into this problem as the game progressed. Competing in tournaments was an extremely expensive endeavor, a problem even many Score employees recognized. Once the game reached the final set of the DBZ CCG and its GT continuation, it was not an exaggeration to say that some of the best decks could cost a few thousand dollars to build with all the hard to get promos and ultra-rares across 15 different card sets. Many of the most powerful cards in the game were Ultra-Rares which fit their name well; though the exact odds are unknown, many have estimated that your odds of pulling an ultra-rare from an entire 32 pack box were between 1:10 and 1:6(though GT made the odds much better). But much worse were the extremely powerful promos from obscure or cost-ineffective sources such as:
    • The later sagas had very rare "subset" cards as inserts(for example, the Buu Saga set contained the Broly subset).
    • A 38 card promo set only found 1 card at a time as inserts with $10-15 DBZ action figures.
    • Promos found 1 at a time as inserts into the Gameboy Advance port of the game
    • A 10 card set from a Kraft Cheese promotion only in Australia.
    • Top cuts in tournaments. Though some cards were later reprinted(at least once by accident) and made more common they still fetched extraordinarily high prices, many remained extremely hard to get. Score exacerbated this in GT by making more and more superpowered promos that were only available during big tournaments. An egregious example was Farewell Drill, a card almost every single deck would want to run and of which only 32 copies were printed and would sell for several hundred dollars.
    • One of the most expensive decks to play competitively was the Namekian style deck around the middle of the game's life. It required three copies of Goku's Blinding Strike(one of the aforementioned Ultra-Rares), three copies of the promo Namekian's Strike(these could go for over $100 EACH), and numerous other expensive promos.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, though the rules are set basically by the DM, there are a group of items called "artifacts" which are said to be very, very rare, and literally can warp reality. These are perceived as so rare that they don't have any effective gold piece value listed. In general, too, the more powerful items are limited by DM's so as to make sure the party doesn't go around killing Great Wyrm Red Dragons in a single turn.
    • Supposedly it's this way. In practice, many if not most of the "artifacts" are actually little more than decent but normal magic items with no real special effect. Many others can be replicated with existing spells, and most of those which are really unique are only a little more effective than a "normal" magic item counterpart.
    • In fantasy worlds in general, this trope often applies. This is because, unlike powerful technological weapons, magic weapons often can't be mass-produced. They take too much power and energy and effectively have to be hand-crafted.
    • In later versions, artifacts are oftentimes sentient creatures. They have unique abilities when you pick them up, and depending on your character's actions or words the artifact may like you or not. The more it likes you, the more powerful it becomes. If it doesn't like you at all it can effectively try to sabotage you. Most artifacts are designed for temporary uses, as they all have their own agenda and will try to get away from you if you don't seem to at least partly follow their plans.
    • Notably averted in the famous "War of the Lance" campaign for the Dragon Lance setting: it is possible for the party to come into possession of four Orbs of Dragonkind over the course of the campaign. Since each one is an incredibly powerful artifact, this has the potential to be a real Monty Haul campaign; on the other hand, they all do the same thing.
  • Enforced by the very nature of reality in Exalted: Humans are common and laughably weak, enlightened Mortals and Godbloods are rarer and stronger, Dragonblooded are more rare and powerful still, while there are only 700 Celestials in all of Creation, and they're able to defeat small armies of Dragonbloods. Likewise, powerful Manses, Artifacts, Charms, Sorcery spells, et cetera are all said to be rare and hard to come by (though the design of PCs in any given campaign may or may not support this).
  • Played with in the Legend of the Five Rings CCG. While it is true that there are powerful rares, several of the most powerful cards in the history of the game actually were only available from starter packs as fixed cards. These generally include the Clan Champion as well as goodies like the Clan Swords. While you could certainly argue cost-effectiveness, some of the biggest and baddest characters in the settings have been only available as a fixed card (ie always present in that starter) in their clan's starter packs.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a complicated relationship with this thanks to their development of many different ways to play the game, called formats, where cards can be of completely different power levels. Wizards' official position is that complex and powerful cards are printed as Rare and Mythic Rares in order to ensure that new players encounter fewer of them when they open packs and so that the Limited format doesn't break or produce tremendously complex boardstates. Nonetheless, most people believe that that powerful cards (particularly dual lands that are critical in Standard and Modern decks) are printed at high rarities in order to increase the amount of product sold.
    • For players who enjoy Limited, a format where your deck from a random or semi-random pool of cards, this is considered a legitimate concern (and because Limited is extremely profitable, Wizards pays attention). Spells that require a specialised response are made rarer, so players who didn't get the needed answer to them aren't overwhelmed. Additionally, some cards are immensely powerful in Limited, but useless in constructed formats. For example: Hex had to be Rare because in Limited, it can effectively end the game on the spot by killing all of the opponent's creatures; nonetheless, the card is worthless in most other formats.
    • And then you get the occasional Junk Rare, a card either designed for a different format altogether or as a Lethal Joke Character to invite creative deckbuilders to make the most out of it. It's naturally terrible outside its intended scope, but Kicked Upstairs to the rare slot so that it doesn't become a frequent dud in Limited.
    • One classic example of Rarity = Power is comparing the mythic rare Baneslayer Angel with the uncommon Serra Angel. At one point, both were printed in the same set, highlighting the fact that although both are identical in cost and type, the Mythic angel is vastly more powerful than the Uncommon angel. Generally speaking these days, if you compare two cards of the same type (often Creature) but different rarity, the one of higher rarity will either have cheaper cost for the same effect as the one of lower rarity, better effects for the same cost, or both.
    • In the very first editions of Magic, this trope did hold true because Wizards of the Coast, not yet realizing how popular their new game would prove, expected the average player to only buy maybe yay many cards ever and so rarity was indeed originally meant to help balance the power of certain cards — the idea that somebody might in practice be crazy enough to simply buy or trade for as many rare cards as needed to create a hypothetically conceivable abusive deck with them never really crossed anyone's mind at that point. History quickly proved otherwise.
    • Magic's Spin-Off game, Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest, is pretty bad at this. Rare and mythic cards tend to be abusively, and very obviously, far more powerful than common and uncommons.
  • While there has always been a positive correlation between effectiveness and rarity in the Pokémon Trading Card Game, it was at its most blatant in Generation V, in which there would be a card of a Pokémon in Uncommon or Rare, and then a card of that same Pokémon in the same set at Holo-Rare that's superior in every way. The designers weren't even trying to hide it: These superior Pokémon were always illustrated with a sparkle of light somewhere on its body (usually an eye or a tooth).
  • One of the best-known offenders of this trope is the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG.
    • Generally, if something's even mildly useful, it's going to be rare or up. The gradations of rarity in Yu-Gi-Oh are many, and the most powerful tend to be the rarest, giving Yu-Gi-Oh the reputation of being a "rich man's game". And sometimes, there were cards that were made useless. Harpy's Feather Duster and Gryphon Wing are a very egregious example. Harpy's Feather Duster is a pretty nasty card that wipes out your opponent's magic and trap cards. Gryphon Wing, meanwhile, counters it so that whenever they play it, it backfires and wipes out their own cards. Gryphon Wing came in a starter deck, whereas Harpy's Feather Duster usually came with Game Boy Advance game or from a promo... so what was the point of having Gryphon Wing?
    • The Crush Card Virus is almost synonymous within the community for its rarity and power. It was so rare that in a booster pack with 3 guaranteed ultra rares, it was stated to only occur once in every 10 packs (and rumored to only being printed once every 75 packs). These packs were usually valued at 35 dollars as well, making it quite a stroke of luck to pull one of these. As for power? It could completely destroy your opponent's hand and field of any strong monster, for the next three turns for a comparatively tiny cost.
    • Polymerization was an interesting case in the early days of the card game. Fusion Monsters (monsters that were Special Summoned by using Polymerization and the appropriate fusion material monsters) were a part of the game's mechanics since the beginning. Some of the first sets included a large number of Fusion monsters that were easy to obtain, but Polymerization itself was a Super Rare card — not terribly hard to get a hold of, but it meant that using Fusions were not an option unless you got lucky with your pulls. This was later rectified when Polymerization was made a Common card in subsequent sets.
    • Dark Armed Dragon was actually upgraded from a Rare to a Secret Rare during localization when UDE noticed that it was dominating the OCG metagame. Konami did not take this well.
    • Many rare cards were later re-released in lower rarities, which made them more accessible to players, including Dark Armed Dragon. On the flip side, some cards were re-released in higher rarities just for aesthetic purposes and aren't really that expensive.
  • Warhammer bases its army selection system on this trope. A player selects their army from their race's army list, which divides all the available troops, war engines, monsters, etc. into three categories - Core Units, Special Units, and Rare Units - and assigns points values to each entry based on how powerful it is. A player's army must contain at least 25% of its total value from the Core section, and cannot contain any more than 50% from Special and 25% from Rare. Character models - individual heroes, wizards, priests, etc. - are likewise divided into two ranks - Heroes and Lords - and an army can have no more than 25% of its total points value spent on each.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has a case of this in-universe with anything of use in the Imperium; most powerful weapons or vehicles were relics from the Great Crusade or older, and with the general superstition and the Adeptus Mechanicus's paranoia about inventing new things, much of these relics have either been irrecoverably destroyed or lost. Thus some insanely powerful weapons are only wielded by the most venerated and powerful individuals, making their appearances on the battlefield a rare sight to behold. The most infamous of these is the Corvus, Sammael's personal Jetbike and reported the last of its kind; however, even in documented cases of it being destroyed beyond repair, the Corvus always returns to service, leading to some to suspect that the Dark Angels are intentionally keeping it a rarity for some reason.
  • In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, all magic items are pretty much unique due to time and labour expenditure involved in their creation: Rules for crafting 'generic' magic weapons appears in the Winds of Magic splatbook, where only dwarves can do it and it takes years of off-time to make a single one (and tradition forbids runesmiths from mass-producing or making more than one of any particular magic weapon: Only one runesmith ever did it and was stuck with the epithet 'The Mad' for having performed such blasphemy). Even nonmagical weapons and armour tend to be rarer the more powerful they are, but in most cases, it's justified by these being cutting-edge and not yet having entered mass production, or simply being unavailable for civilian purchase. Higher-quality versions of regular equipment are also harder to acquire, due to having been hand-crafted.
  • Wizards of the Coast has been pretty good about averting this trope in their miniature games as well. Sure, Rare/Very Rare pieces are going to be the most powerful, but they are not necessarily the most efficient or the most highly sought-after. Discussion threads in both their Star Wars and D&D Minis forums had long lists of competitive armies that could be built using only Common and Uncommon pieces.
  • World of Warcraft TCG veered towards this also in its later years. Whereas at common you have an Ally which cost 6 and has 6 attack and 5 health with no other ability, at rare and epic said ally that costs 6 with better attack AND health plus helpful ability. Like Magic: The Gathering, the limited format is generally the reason why these discrepancies exist.

    Video Games 
  • Artery Gear: Fusion: Gear rarity ranges from 1* to 6*. The higher the rarity of the gear, the higher the value of the main stats, as well as number and value of substats.
  • Billy vs. SNAKEMAN has this, not at the level of individual pieces of equipment (The way equipment works in the game means that rare gear doesn't have to be any more powerful than common gear to be worth the extra effort), but in the kinds of bonuses that they give. A full set of equipment gives somewhere in the neighborhood of + 40-60 of the inherently diminishing rewards bonuses, but Strength, which can make challenges auto-win in great enough quantities, gets only +16, and Successes, an even more "Game-Breaker in excess" bonus, has a mere + 3.
  • Borderlands: Rare guns are color-coded and are supposed to be hard to find, but the way weapon generation works in the game's programming (especially if you are wearing an accessory that increases rare rates,) you'll be throwing away epic loot every fifteen seconds or so.
    • You can not-entirely-infrequently find the second-best category of loot in stores. This makes some sense if every other adventurer out there finds and sells as much blue/purple loot as you do...
    • The effects are much more pronounced in co-op play, possibly to cut down on infighting.
  • One of the draws of Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is collecting rare items. The best stuff is all mostly highly rare item drops from bosses (usually Hard mode only, but some are exclusive to Normal). Other good items drop from purple chests depending on difficulty, some having a tendency to be as rare as the boss-only gear (ie Shanoa's DLC glyphs, the Retro subweapons, and the Fuma gear).
    • Also of note are items that were rare boss-only drops but became regular enemy drops in the DLC stages. These include Simon's Plate (previously exclusive to Hard mode Dracula, now available from the numerous and much easier Hellmont of Chapter 11), Berserker Mail, and Death's Robe. However, the latter two are still somewhat annoying to get because they drop from mini bosses on Chapter 10, and both are a ways into the level. Still easier than trying to get them from Hard mode Death, as the Chapter 10 versions also drop on Normal.
  • City of Heroes has Regular, Uncommon, Rare, and Very Rare Invention recipes. They increase in power with rarity.
  • Diablo III: Ancient-tier equipment has a slightly higher power boost than regular Legendary-tier equipment. Full gear sets are extremely hard to complete but make up for it with an average 400% DPS increase. Combine the two with other rare Legendaries with special abilities and you'll be unstoppable.
  • Disco Zoo: Economic power, in this case — Rare animals earn more coins and stay awake longer than Common ones, Mythical ones even more so, and Timeless ones most of all.
  • Most weapons in the Disgaea series can be of common, rare, or legendary quality (The best weapon of each type is always legendary). The better the quality, the better the item's base stats will be, and the degree to which its stats can be boosted in the Item World will be much higher, as well.
  • Zig-zagged in Dragon Quest IX; just because a piece of equipment is the rarest in the game, it's not always the best. For example, the Infinity +1 Sword you get in the Post Game adds 180 to your attack, while a sword you can get just before the Final Boss can double it. The only reason you'd want to use the Infinity +1 Sword instead of the other one is that it has a surprisingly good chance of decreasing the foe's defense or if your base Attack is less than 180.
  • EarthBound (1994) has one particularly glaring one, the Sword of Kings, the only weapon Poo can use effectively can only be obtained from one enemy, which is only available temporarily, in one dungeon, and it has a drop rate of 1/128.
    • Less notorious but even worse to get is the Gutsy Bat. 1/128 droprate dropped by the strongest single enemy in the game, the Bionic Kraken. Also extremely rare, spawns in only one place so you'll probably go through the entire game without seeing one, and so close to the end of the game that all you can use it for is the final boss. It is satisfying to see every other hit be a Smaaaaash! though.
  • Einhänder has the Flash Weapon Pod, a Guide Dang It! to obtain normally and can only be obtained twice in an entire game. It's one of the strongest weapons in the game, firing out a pink laser that penetrates enemies and does massive damage in general.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • Servants of higher rarity have higher stats and a higher level cap when compared to Servants of lower rarity. However, this trope mainly applies to pure stats. Skill-wise, there are enough low-rarity Servants with a very good kit of skills that allow them to compete with high-rarity Servants. One notable advantage low-rarity Servants have over high-rarity Servants is that they are easier to obtain, thus it's easier to raise their NP level, while most players struggle to raise the NP level of their 5*-Servants (or getting any 5*-Servant at all). Similarly, the enhancement costs and required number of enhancement materials of lower rarity Servants is much lower than that of higher rarity Servants. A 5*-Servant requires double the amount of QP than a 4*-Servant for each skill level.
    • Palingenesis is an enhancement mechanic that allows Servants to go beyond their level cap, allowing them to go up to level 100, a level no Servant can naturally reach on their own. Servants of lower rarities benefit from it the most, as their stat curves scale much higher than those of the highest rarity. Due to that, while low-rarity Servants need more Holy Grails to raise their level cap up to 100, they are finally able to stand to their high-rarity peers on a more even ground. However, even with Palingenesis, the stats of low-rarity Servants are ultimately inferior.
    • A few Servants have stats that are rather unsuitable for their rarities.
      • Artoria Lily is noted for having the lowest ATK stat and one of the lowest HP stats among 4*-Servants and she doesn't have the kit of skills that would allow her to compete with fellow 4* Servants. This is due to being the very first welfare Servant and she never has managed to handle the Power Creep. In comparison, Medea Lily has the second-lowest ATK stat among 4* Servants, and Medusa Lancer isn't that much stronger either. But both of them do have very high HP for their rarity and either of them have skills or a niche that makes them more usable than their fellow Lily, Artoria.
      • Aŋra Mainiiu is notable for being the only 0*-Star Servant, reflecting his status as the worst Servant. However, his stats as well as his natural maximum level is equal to those of 2*-Servants and gameplay-wise, he isn't the worst either. Ironically enough, he is the rarest Servant, since he's even more difficult to pull out from the gacha than 5*-Servants. His enhancement costs are identical to a 2*-Servants, but the number of required materials is the same as a 5*-Avenger or 5*-Foreigner.
    • Holy Grails (a material required for Palingenesis) and Crystallized Lore (a material that every Servant needs to have their skill level raised from 9 to 10) and 4*-Fou cards are all very rare materials and they cannot be obtained through normal means. While Crystallized Lore and 4*-Fou cards are available as restockable goods from the Rare Prism Shop, most players are only able to obtain them from events, particularly from Challenge Quests and Event Shops. Holy Grails can only be obtained from clearing main story chapters and certain events. While 4*-Fou cards are used to maximize a Servant's stats even further (albeit the increase in stats isn't actually significant), and Holy Grails are not necessary to improve a Servant's performance, Crystallized Lores are a very important material. Since skill cooldowns are reduced by 1 turn whenever a skill is raised up to 6 and 10, reducing a skill's cooldown time vastly improves the consistent performance of a Servant, but Crystallized Lores are so rare that you can maximize the skills of only a dozen Servants with them per year.
  • Like the above, Final Fantasy Legend II used this trope, although it also was combined with Too Awesome to Use.
  • Zig-zagged in Granblue Fantasy, SSR characters are easily considered as the most sought-after characters due to the luck factor of being able to draw them in the gacha. They tend to have the highest level caps of 80 (or 100 in a 5★ uncap), and in turn having the highest base attack and health. R-rarity characters on the other hand have a significantly lower level cap and have fewer skills compared to the SR and SSR characters. But due to the cycle of old characters becoming outdated gameplay-wise, and new characters having more utilities, even SR characters can prove to become stronger than a number of SSR characters of their own element, especially for 5★ SR characters who can have a level cap of 90 in contrast to the level 80 cap for a majority of SSR characters. This trope is then averted for SR characters who not only can surpass some SSR characters but are also given out for free during story events (i.e. Meteon, Minami). Likewise, SSR characters who are in the lower tier rankings and are below SR characters also avert this trope.
  • Guild Wars averts this, as any Uncommon (read: moddable) can be made functionally identical to a Very Rare or Unique weapon. The real value of the Very Rare and Unique weapons are the skins.
  • Hearthstone zig-zags this. Rarity generally represents the "complexity" of the cards but with Legendaries falling under "powerful cards limited to one per deck", but there are multiple times where this rule is broken.
    • Basic cards, the set every new player had by defaultnote , are Exactly What It Says on the Tin. They're either completely textless beatsticks or otherwise very simple effects, usually just one keyword or a single sentence ability. Some of the most useless and Power Crept cards in the game are predictably in this set... but it has some powerful and practical staples too, like Novice Engineer, Animal Companion, Blessing of Kings, or Acidic Swamp Ooze.
    • Epic cards tend to be weak outside of certain decks or are not worth trying to make it work. For example, ramp druids will run any cards that give mana crystal except Pilfered Powernote  due to how much work is required to make it worth putting into a deck compared to other mana crystal-generating cards and it's the only Epic card in that category.
    • On the other hand, there are several cases of cards affected by Power Creep where they are replaced with more efficient cards. For example, Princess Huhurannote , a Hunter Legendary, was almost never used even on a Deathrattle-based deck, then a year later, Terrorscale Stalkernote  was released and did the same thing but with way less cost and can have two copies of. Speaking of Hunter Legendaries, for a long time, players joked that Savannah Highmane, a Rare card from the original set, was the best Hunter Legendary due to how every Hunter Legendary in the first 3-4 years of the game have been too niche or underpowered to see competitive play.
    • Purposefully averted by C'Thun. He was very popular and powerful when first released, and had 17 cards solely dedicated to strengthening his effect. Because so much of the set was about him, he was given away for free to every single player.
    • This is played straight by most Hero Cards and Quests. They tend to be very powerful build-around cards that totally change the flow of the game. Even the weaker ones have abilities far beyond what comparable cards can do. They're always Legendary, meaning meta stars from multiple classes need either luck or a large sum of dust to use.
  • Jade Empire invokes this. Kang the Mad doesn't want to mass-produce the Marvelous Dragonfly, because as long as there's only one, it will be the greatest flying craft ever made. Make more and it will be merely average.
  • Of Kirby's many many copy abilities, there are at least two examples of that are extremely powerful, but are difficult to actually obtain: Hammer and U.F.O. The Hammer ability has always only been given by Bonkers, a hammer-wielding Gorilla mini-boss. Hammer's moves do an insane amount of damage to enemies and can easily destroy certain barriers to secrets. The U.F.O is an ability that's only granted by a U.F.O enemy who is difficult to find and swallow. Not only is U.F.O Kirby always floating (which completely breaks all platforming segments), but it also has the powers of Beam, Laser, and Spark all rolled into one convenient package.
  • The Last Remnant features a number of weapons that there are only one of, and are incredibly powerful (most however are found in the course of the main story). Also, the most powerful non-Remnant weapons and accessories require a number of rare components to craft.
  • Legends of Runeterra: Cards generally get more complex and powerful the rarer they are, going in the order of "Common", "Rare", then "Epic", with "Champions" being their own classification. Compare say the common Chip with the Champion Malphite. Chip costs 1-mana and with simple 1/1 power and health stats. He can become stronger under the condition that a player plays a "Landmark" card, gaining a useful stat boost. Malphite on the other hand costs 7 mana, is 6 power and 10 health, and has the "Tough" keyword which lets him take 1 less damage from every attack. And when played, he can stun an enemy unit, a very useful tool to have to mount an attack.
  • In the Mario & Luigi series, the more useful a piece of gear or item is, the harder it'll be to find or more expensive it'll be to buy (with some exceptions). Same with most of the Bros/Luiginary Attacks (minus the Slingsniper). And with rare Metal Slime enemies like the Gold Beanies in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Averted with badges in the latter though, you buy all of them (from most to least useful) from the exact same two shops.
  • Minecraft has common stuff like dirt and cobblestone, rare stuff like gold, very rare stuff like diamonds, and then these. These are so rare and so powerful they are generally considered to be end-of-game goals to aspire for.
    • "Treasure" enchantments cannot be obtained from an Enchanting Table and can only be found in treasure chests, rarely from fishing, and from master-level Librarian trades. The rarest of the rare and the most powerful of them all is Mending, which allows you to repair gear with experience rather than crafting, and provides the only means of maintaining any one piece of gear indefinitely. Only swamp-biome Librarians can sell Mending, and villages don't exist in swamps: if you want to buy this one you have to get lucky enough to find a Zombie Villager in a swamp, cure him with a Potion of Weakness and Golden Apple, either build a structure to protect him or fadangle him back to your base via boat or minecarts, and then trade with him to grind him up to master. It's still worth it, though quite a burn for players who got used to the pre-1.21 Nerfnote .
    • Netherite gear. Take a seat. To get it you need to find Ancient Debris, an incredibly rare mineral in The Nether. Then smelt it into Netherite Scrap. Then do this 3 more times. Then craft 4 Netherite Scrap with 4 Gold Ingots to get 1 Netherite Ingot. Then find a Netherite Upgrade Smithing Template. Then use a Smithing Table to combine the Smithing Template, the Netherite Ingot, and the Diamond gear of your choice to make a single piece of Netherrite gear. It's probably the Minecraftiest chain of events imaginable, though you can at least make copies of the Smithing Template with 7 Diamonds and some Netherrack, but there's definitely a reason the game taunts you for blowing all of this on a Netherite Hoe:
      "Serious Dedication:" Use a Netherite Ingot to upgrade a Hoe, and then reevaluate your life choices.
    • The Elytra, which allows you to glide from high places and even soar through the air via Firework-powered flight, thus enabling you to cover thousands of blocks of distance in minutes, reach the tops of mountains in seconds, completely avoid combat, and generally act like a god of the land. Naturally, it can only be found in End Ships, a rare structure that only occasionally appears near End Cities. To even reach these you need to find a Stronghold, go to The End, fight The Ender Dragon, and then make your way to the edge islands of the dimension where these cities appear.
    • Speaking of End Cities, Shulker Boxes. End Cities are crawling with Shulkers, whom you can kill and use their shells to make the game's answer to Hammerspace. They're not as rare as the Elytra, but Shulkers don't naturally respawn.
    • Beacons allow you to make a monument that grants you buffs. To get one, you need to kill Wither Skeletons to get their skulls, use 3 of them to summon The Wither, kill it for a Nether Star, use that to craft a Beacon, and then build a pyramid of minerals to mount it on.
  • Somewhat zig-zagged in Onmyoji, but mostly played straight. There are a number of useful R and SR-tier shikigami that provide valuable utility effects unique to them which make them widely utilised even by high-level players, most notably Ushi no Toki and Shoyo/Bukkuman. However, when it comes to simply wiping the enemy off the face of the Earth, SSR and SP-tier shikis are just straight-up better in every single regard- their stats make lower-tier shikis look like wimps and their abilities sometimes verge on the outright broken (not mentioning any *cough*Onikiri*cough* names). And since the game contains heavy, heavy Power Creep (with 4-5 times as many new SSR and SP shikis being released as SRs, and new Rs being literally nonexistent anymore), SSRs and SPs are starting to infringe on even the unique lower-tier shikis- for example, the vastly more powerful SP version of Shuten Doji has completely taken over the small niche Kamikui still had as a "pusher" in duels, and the recently-released SSR Enmusubi has already mostly supplanted the previously invaluable Bukkuman in uber boss team compositions.
  • Pokémon: Mons you find a lot of in one place and/or in many places are weak. Ones which are relatively hard to find, only in a small number of places, or you are only given one of are stronger, and ones that you can only catch one of are much stronger.
    • The textbook examples are the Pseudo-Legendary Pokémon, which, as the name suggests, have stats that rival those of Legendaries. They can (most of the time) only be caught in their initial form, in one or two places in the world (and often right before Victory Road), and eat experience like few else. But once they reach their final stage...
    • Then there's the Master Ball, a Pokéball that has an absolute capture rate. It has 100% accuracy and is inescapable once thrown. Typically there is only one of these in the game and is to be saved for the most exclusive 'Mons (like Mewtwo at the end of R/B/Y). Most of the main games have a lottery to win more, but only in the very unlikely chance that the daily number matches one of your Mons' ID number exactly.
    • Mega Evolution is a Super Mode that a select few Pokémon species can access which grants powerful stats, abilities and otherwise would make them absurd Game Breakers. However, there are a few limitations: For one, the Pokémon usually needs the appropriate Mega Stone to Mega Evolve and the trainer needs a Key Stone to activate it. In-Universe, both items are in extremely short supply, thus only a very select few trainers even have access to this sort of power boost (the player characters, rivals, champions and evil team leaders). Also, only one Mega Evolution is allowed per team.
    • Z-Crystals in Pokémon Sun and Moon is a ZigZagging example: Z-Crystals allow the Pokémon to preform a Z-move, a a once-per-battle technique that is extremely powerful. Any Pokémon can use a Z-move as long as it knows the same type of move that works with the appropriate Z-Crystal. In-Universe, Z-Crystals are apparently common enough in that they're given to trainers as proof of completing trials and grand trials in the island challenge, similar to gym badges from past games. That being said, Z-Crystals only appear to exist in Alola, and there are some Z-Crystals which only work for a specific Pokémon, and these are extra rare.
  • This is present in two forms in the Pokémon Rumble series. Firstly, Pokemon that are rarer tend to have a higher power rating than common ones. On top of this, any Pokemon you obtain has a chance to possess a special ability that improves it in any of a number of ways. The best abilities are extremely rare and only found on around one of every hundred or even thousand Pokemon you obtain on average. This makes getting the ideal Pokemon extremely time-consuming, as it can take dozens of trips through a level to even see some rare Pokemon in the first place, then you still need to hope they have a good ability.
  • Salt and Sanctuary: After the Jaws of Death became standard-issue for the Askarian army, a swordsmith from Markdor attempted to one-up the rival nation by creating a superior version. His Northern Cross was indeed superior to the Jaws of Death, but unlike the Jaws of Death, it was impossible to mass-produce due to the rarity of its materials. In a bit of Gameplayand Story Integration, the Jaws of Death is obtained by transmuting a greatsword with the remains of a certain regular enemy, while the Northern Cross is obtained by transmuting a greatsword with the remains of a certain boss. So you can create as many Jaws of Death as you like (provided you belong to one of the two religions that lets you buy more greatswords), but only one Northern Cross per playthrough.
  • 7 Days to Die has this with quite a few guns. Especially Rocket Launchers.
  • Shadowverse tries to zig-zag this but ultimately plays it straight, moreso as the years went by. Over time, the vast majority of deck archetypes became focused around one or two Legendary cards (rarely Golden) which have incredibly overwhelming effects that either single-handedly win you the game once played or have a passive effect that starts letting other synergistic cards win you the game, which are otherwise neutered before you play said card. Bronze and Silver cards generally tend to be basic minions and spells that are used to pad out your deck or support cards that are required to activate those game-winning Legendary cards, but rarely are they able to win games on their own. Even Legendaries not used as win-cons are often loaded with insane amounts of utility or tempo and do nothing but improve the deck they're in. Modern viable "budget" decks have 3 copies of one Legendary at minimum.
  • Averted heavily in Smashy Road: Wanted. The four tiers are common, rare, epic, and legendary. However, some of the epic tier cars are horrible to use and takes a lot of skill to master compared to the ones in lower tiers.
  • Played with in Terraria. Every generated world has a handful of incredibly powerful weapons. The weapons themselves are guaranteed to be inside special chests which are always in a generated world. The keys for those chests are a different story and, while they can drop off any enemy in a given area, the drop rate is around 1 in 2,500.
  • In Tokyo Afterschool Summoners, the higher the rarity of a character means the more powerful that character would be. For example, a 3-star unit of one character is of average strength, but a four-star or five-star unit of that same character would have better HP, stronger Atk, and the ability to level up higher for more HP and Atk as well as gaining access to better abilities. To offset this, the game has higher units cost higher during team building, having players decide who to choose among their strongest characters.
  • World of Warcraft has several Legendary Items, incredibly powerful items beyond the highest Tier, and incredibly difficult to attain (requiring, say, 40 rare drops plus drops from head bosses of the toughest dungeons of the game, or two very rare drops from different bosses plus crafting materials, or just being incredibly rare drops from a specific boss), so there are usually only a few on any given server.

    Western Animation 
  • WordGirl features an in-universe example in the episode "Castle! Dungeon! Fortress! So?". The card game Castle! Dungeon! Fortress! Go!, which Becky's brother and friends are into, has a card called the Mystifier that comes in only one in five million card packs and is the most powerful card in the game. So much so, in fact, that when Becky obtains a Mystifier card and uses it in the very first turn of a Castle! Dungeon! Fortress! Go! game against her friends, it immediately ends the game then and there.

    Real Life 
  • This actually comes in to play fairly often with bleeding-edge military technologies, because highly precise, sophisticated equipment often requires manufacturing processes that preclude effective mass production. There were, for instance, only 21 B-2 Stealth Bombers ever produced, each costing over $1.7 billion. They are, however, the most effective low-observability planes currently in existence. The F-22 is going a similar way, with its production currently capped at less than 200 planes, whereas cheaper, less advanced and effective (at least less effective on paper) planes such as the F-16 have had production runs of 4500 planes and counting. However, being rare and extremely high-tech does not always and certainly not immediately translate into effective power. While B-2 have demonstrated its usefulness by doing thing no other aircraft could and thus plays this trope straight, you could argue that F-22 is actually an invertion of this trope. F-22 saw its very first combat sorties in 2014, nine years after introduction and seventeen years after the first flight, and still has flown very few combat sorties despite the USAF being heavily involved in several conflicts. It has, so far, represented very little actually useful "power" at all perhaps making it Awesome, but Impractical instead.
  • The economics of war tend to have the standard-issue weaponry made to the lowest bidder. This is good in that most weapons can be produced for a certain price, but bad in that the quality of those weapons is mediocre at best. Given that militaries in many countries conscript poor people (or even children) with little training, it makes little sense to give quality weapons to those who will likely die anyway.
  • As Comrade Stalin says "Quantity has a Quality all its own."
  • Exemplified by the Tiger Tank which when it appeared in 1942 combined heavy armor with long-range lethality to become an unstoppable killing machine, at least 'til it broke down. However, there were only 1,347 examples produced (plus another 492 Tiger IIs) compared with over 50,000 T-34 and 40,000 M4 Sherman tanks.
    • The German wunderwaffen ("wonder weapons") program researched all kinds of Awesome, but Impractical weapons in the hope of uncovering the key to winning the war. Many reached the prototype stage but were never mass-produced due to prohibitive cost and/or crippling flaws that rendered them unsuitable for use in the field.
  • Kevlar is fairly easy to make, but as someone demonstrated on the Discovery channel, heavier weapons (such as a rifle at close range) can pierce the fibers (making it really bullet-resistant rather than bulletproof). In order to really stand up to bullets, needs a Kevlar with ceramic plating woven in, but to do this sort of thing is more expensive (and the result is much heavier and in need of much more frequent repair), and thus more rare.
  • While stronger life forms tend to out-compete weaker ones within their own species (or niche), small species tend to be more numerous than large ones, and prey tend to be more common than the predators that eat them. This comes down to available energy. A general rule of only 10% of the energy that goes into an organism is transferred to the organism that eats it, the rest is used up by the prey species' own life processes. This limits the amount of energy available to predators thus reducing the possible number of the predator.
    • Indeed all apex predators are always very thin on the ground and thrive when their numbers are such that small prey animals on the scale of mice would be considered on the brink of extinction. Subverted by humans, if only because we're not so picky with our food.
  • True before mass production. There is a difference between a sword made by a master bladesmith and one made by a normal smith. Even a cheap effective sword was rare and expensive enough that weapons that needed less metal and less skill like spears and axes were more commonly used.
  • Nuclear weapons. Sure, there may be enough to scour the world clean a dozen times over, and nuclear proliferation is a big deal, but compare nukes to other weapons. Almost anyone can make a simple spear or knife from sticks, stones, or bones. Conventional explosives rain like water in some conflicts. And in 2012, enough bullets have been estimated produced in that year alone to put two in the head of every person on the planet, then let the last person commit suicide with extras to spare. Nukes are late-game Infinity Plus One Swords made from ultra-rare material drops and harvests in comparison.
  • Very true in the Universe:
    • The more massive (thus more luminous, at least for main sequence ones) a star is the rarer it is, as they last considerably less in astronomical terms than lightest onesnote . The most massive and luminous stars -the likes of Deneb and especially those compared to which even Deneb is a joke- are dwarfed in numbers by the in comparison humble Sun-like stars, and much especially the far humbler red dwarf ones.
    • Large galaxies as ours (and to a larger extent those more massive and luminous than it) are considerably less abundant than those of surface brightness and luminosities so low that are difficult to spot even in our galactic vicinitynote .