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Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness

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"Weapon choice doesn't start too exciting
Two machine guns, a rifle for sniping
But later on, BFGs
Coming with guarantees
To shoot various flavors of lightning."

In the same way that the Sorting Algorithm of Evil dictates that you will face opponents of steadily increasing ability, the Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness ensures that you will acquire consistently more useful items and equipment as your progress through the game.

As a result, the progression through the Standard FPS Guns; the quality of the items that are dropped by enemies, found in treasure chests, or sold in shops is directly dependent on how far you are in the game. The First Town may be a thriving metropolis and the center of world trade, but it will invariably be home to the game's worst equipment. Conversely, the poor desolate village near the end of the game will inexplicably host some of the game's best items and weapons.

In games in which the weapons are guns with their own ammunition, this almost inevitably results in the character carrying piles of ammo for the weak weapons that were scavenged early in the game. Rendered useless by the various BFGs picked up later, there's really no point in switching to that dinky pistol, especially when there are rockets and high-power assault rifles practically falling out of trees. One way to avoid this is if earlier areas can/must be revisited, having better equipment present in the shops initially, but just way out of the character's price range when they first shop there, although this can lead to a Game-Breaker if the player grinds to get the equipment early, unless this is prevented by a mechanism such as level or skill requirements. Another way of having the same effect is for the shops to get new stock at some point in the game, but having them only carry basic items when first visited.

This is especially annoying in games which encourage players to invest resources in upgrading or customizing weapons, as they will no doubt discover the BFG 9000 just after they've used a bunch of rare pickups to increase the power of their trusty old BFG 8000, often without any sort of compensation for making the switch so late. Size is also an issue; if you start with a normal size sword or gun, you'll end it with a BFS or BFG, which will inevitably still be an Infinity -1 Sword, unless you grind to get that Metal Slime to drop the Infinity +1 Sword.

The Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness, when put into practice, is best illustrated with a crash course in Elemental Crafting. It goes hand in hand with Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Things like inn stays, healers, and other services tend to rise in price at a similar rate to the new and better weapons. It can be undermined by a Disc-One Nuke. A Taste of Power is a minor inversion that is quickly taken away. Teaser Equipment is a more direct inversion, but you probably won't be able to afford those wares. A Limited Loadout can be employed to force the player to carefully choose which guns they take with them. See also With This Herring.


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    Action Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda plays this one pretty straight: the new weapons acquired in every dungeon are usually more effective than similar previous ones, especially against that dungeon's enemies: the bow compared to the slingshot, or the Master Sword compared to the starting one. Obsolete weapons remain useful in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, though, since kid-Link can't physically handle the bow, the hookshot, the hammer, the Master Sword, and so on.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild enforces this with a gameplay mechanic. Monster and boss kills are tracked internally, which cause enemies and treasure chests to carry stronger weapons which generally scale with Link's overall experience. Shops, however, do not change their inventory.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Not so prevalent in Blood where every weapon has its niche, but in Blood II, where there are more weapons available than slots to hold them, this comes into play a lot. For example, you can ditch the pistol when you get the SMG that fires faster, and the SMG when you get the assault rifle that's even faster, stronger and more accurate; the Howitzer found at the start of Chapter 2 is plain worse than the Napalm Cannon you get halfway through the chapter; the CabalCo Death Ray you can find halfway through Chapter 2 is almost a straight upgrade over the Tesla Gun you got halfway through Chapter 1; and the Life Leech is a better use of Focus than the Voodoo Doll or the Orb. Although a few weapons collected early on, like the Flare Gun and the Sawed-Off Shotgun, are mainstays in a prudent player's arsenal, while some latecomers aren't as good as hardware you picked up earlier, like the Singularity Generator being a flashier but ultimately less efficient use of batteries than the Tesla Gun or Death Ray and the Die Bug Die sprayer being worse in every aspect than using its ammo for the assault rifle's underbarrel Grenade Launcher.
  • Played straight in Borderlands. You start off with an extremely shitty weapon and have to face off a small squad of bandits before you can get to a chest containing a BLR Swatter pistol, which is miles better than that starting weapon but still nothing special. You'll be forced to use less useful equipment for a good while into the game, at least until you hit level 10. Borderlands 2 makes it a lot less painful by putting the lowest weapon effectiveness at "does the job decently enough", as long as you take levels into account. In all games, though, by the end game you're likely to have your "worst" weapon at blue rarity level, if not purple.
  • Command & Conquer: Renegade. Starting with a simple pistol and finishing the game with a laser chaingun that stunlocks enemies, a gun that shoots Tiberium shards, and a personal Ion Cannon. After the level where you get incarcerated and lose almost all of your weapons, you never even get some of the low-tier stuff like the assault rifle back, because even the basic Nod mooks have upgraded to the chaingun and laser weapons.
  • Daikatana manages this not only with the individual weapons of the four time periods' sets, but with the sets themselves. The first episode starts you off with just your fists and works you up through to energy weapons that bounce their projectiles off walls and back into your face, a shotgun that dumps six shells per trigger pull to throw you all about, and overpowered explosives with poor hit detection and ridiculously-large splash damage radii to blow up in your face. After you get the Daikatana as your melee weapon you get sent to other time periods for the second through fourth episodes, each of which have their own unique sets of weapons, and that's when you finally start encountering ones that are designed as weapons first and suicide tools second.
  • In GoldenEye, the player begins each level with the same gun (a weak silenced pistol) until later in the game, when you begin equipped with better weapons. As well, guns that Mooks carry tend to be more powerful — the RC-P90 doesn't show up until the penultimate level, for example.
    • Perfect Dark Zero: in the beginning your default weapon is a pistol with a scope and detachable suppressor. As you continue in the game, not only do the usual enemy weapons get stronger, but you also get direct upgrades to that pistol — later you get a submachine gun with the same mods plus a bigger magazine, more power per shot, and the expected full-auto ability; even later, you get an assault rifle that's even better and mounts a grenade launcher.
  • Holds true in Half-Life, where in later levels you have piles and piles of pistol and shotgun ammo, but with better weapons easy to find, they're only broken out for low-end threats like headcrabs and barnacles.
  • In Quake, the Ranger begins the game with a lowly shotgun and a useless axe as its only backup. As the game progresses you pick up a better shotgun, two nailguns, grenade and rocket launchers, and a Lightning Gun — roughly in that order. The shotguns only really get used in combat because their ammo is absurdly plentiful, otherwise the shotty is only pulled out to shoot certain switches. Its use is even more consolidated as a utility peashooter in the expansion packs: the new weapons in Scourge of Armagon suit heavy combat better and there's no extra-powerful alternate ammo for the shotguns in Dissolution of Eternity.
  • Rise of the Triad: Begin with one pistol in slot 1. One minute into the first level find another pistol which fits slot 2 and is used akimbo with the first. Two minutes into the level find an MP40 submachine gun which fills slot 3. Never touch buttons 1 and 2 again for the rest of the game.
  • Star Wars: Dark Forces had an interesting twist on this. The game starts you out with a simple blaster pistol and your fists, and as you progress you can work your way through everything from a fusion cutter to a plasma cannon with a side of rocket launcher, but many of the weapons share a pool of ammo, so you're seldom left with useless ammo, and each weapon is useful in specific circumstances. Later games more or less deal with this in the same manner, though the addition of the lightsaber plays around with this some more as it quickly becomes one of your most versatile weapons, to the point you'll find yourself breaking out other weapons less and less as the game goes on and your abilities grow, especially whenever you fight an enemy who's using one themselves. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast particularly highlights this with the stun prod, a useless melee weapon which takes two or three hits to knock out even a basic stormtrooper, and that Kyle ditches entirely once he gets his lightsaber back after two missions.

    Hack And Slash 
  • In Diablo I and II, the item spread is carefully controlled by which area of the game you're in; the starting levels will give you nothing but light armor, weak weapons of all kinds, and marginally magical items. As you continue through the game, the range of droppable items increases, so that Dagger of Poking you picked up in Act I will eventually be replaced by the Pointy Short Sword of Sharpness in Act II, the Serrated Flamberge of Wounding in Act III, and the Butt-kicking BFS of Evisceration on the highest difficulty setting.
    • Played straight in Diablo II for all plot-related zones, but avoided in Hell difficulty mode, where all acts (except act IV) had several optional zones (level 85 zones) where pretty much any item (except for the rarest runes) may drop.
  • This goes for most RogueLikes descended from Angband. The deeper in the dungeon, the greater the loot.

  • Defiance has a spin on this: every weapon you find will instantly be attuned to your current level. The in-game justification is that your character has a nanomachine-based AI living inside their body, and she gets better at upgrading equipment as your levels go up. The problem is that weapon levels can only be increased with expensive loot drops called Arkforge, so you have to decide whether your current epic weapon is still better than a common weapon you just picked up that is now about 10 levels above the current one.
  • EVE Online has a couple exceptions, but generally this is true. The "meta level" of an item is a rough measure of its quality. The best gear supplied by players is meta 5. The elite gear given to favoured pilots of the major empires is meta 8. If you run into pirate commanders in dangerous space, they drop meta 11-14 gear. Similarly with ships, random groups of crazy pirates will give you fancier ships than major empires with massive space navies.
    • Varies even then. Some empire faction gear ranges up to meta 12, and even very high meta level weapons are often inferior to T2 (meta 5) in the hands of a skilled player. A few faction items are actually inferior to T2 regardless of skill.
    • This still applies only to the origin of those items. Most high-meta items are traded in high-sec trade hubs accessible to the newest players, making the entire demand side of the economy an exception.
  • World of Warcraft does this so much that the item level is used as a requirement for some content, which is separate from the Character Level required to use the item. Because the endgame of each expansion kept introducing more powerful items while player levels stayed the same, the highest item levels as of Mists Of Pandaria are over 600.

    Platform Game 
  • Ratchet & Clank usually gives the player two weapons to start with, or one weapon and enough money to buy a second one. Traditionally, these weapons are some sort of pistol and some sort of bomb (Lancer and Gravity Bomb, Combuster and Fusion Grenade, Constructo Pistol and Constructo Bomb, etc.), but there are instances where this isn't the case. Either way, in many games in the franchise, the pistol (or whatever your first weapon is) ends up being completely useless in Challenge Mode, even if it's upgraded to the max (go ahead and use that level 10 Constructo Pistol on one of Nefarious' robots, if you want Cherry Tapping), although there are subversions to this trope (the Dual Vipers in Deadlocked and the Omniblasters in Into the Nexus are still useful in Challenge Mode, although you still have to upgrade them first). However, there will inevitably be more flashy and useful weapons to buy later, like rocket launchers, bombs that split into smaller bombs, nets that trap and shock your enemies, guns that summon voids which suck in enemies and summon creatures from another universe who attack the enemies, and of course, the RYNO series.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Command & Conquer does this, starting both the player and the enemies off with basic structures and units and slowly giving them more destructive weapons as the levels progress. Expect the first few levels to have nothing but basic infantry and maybe light vehicles geared towards fighting infantry, but the last levels to include superweapons and huge tanks.
  • Played straight in Dawn of War and its first expansion, but averted in the Dark Crusade and Soulstorm expansions: Since every level is a skirmish mode against one or two enemies, you can use any unit you want after building up your base (this however leads to a massive case of Reinventing the Wheel after every single level).
  • Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon has Light, Medium and Heavy versions of the following weapons: Laser Cannons, Carronades, Plasma Cannons and Lancers, with heavier versions being more powerful and possessing greater range.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Lampshaded in the spoof Pocket PC RPG Arvale. When you travel into the past, the protagonist incredulously says to the shopkeeper "How come you've got weapons that are so much better than those in the future?" The shopkeeper says "No idea. Bet you want to buy them, though, don't you?"
  • Holds true in Chrono Trigger, even when two shops are not only in different corners of the globe but in different eons. When you go from the year 2300 to 65 million BC, you'll find armor and weapons that are ever so slightly better than the ones from the technologically-advanced future. Then, when you return to the medieval ages, you will get new iterations that are slightly better still. Especially ridiculous since this applies to guns, crossbows, and robot parts in exactly the same measure.
    • The Mystic-populated Medina Village, however, gives you weapons reasonably above your current choices, but at such inflated prices that the grind for cash is not worth it. This is because the NPCs hate you (a subquest can be undertaken to fix this, but by that point you no longer need the swag they sell).
  • Dragon Age does something similar, scaling the materials your equipment is made out of with your level, though some shopkeepers seem to gain access to the higher-end materials much sooner than others. Still, if there's enough Dragonbone around that virtually everything in the game can be made of it towards the endgame... why weren't they making stuff out of it to begin with?
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Morrowind Downplays it. Items outside of containers are hand placed, and never change regardless of your level. Because of this, it is possible to acquire some of the best equipment in the game through simple theft. Items within containers play it straight to a degree, as the items they may contain come from random "leveled lists". Certain items only appear once you reach a certain level. Finally, merchants have the same stock regardless of your level when you visit them. The First Town merchant possesses some better items than merchants you won't run into until hours later, and larger cities tend to have merchants with better stock.
    • In Oblivion, NPC weaponry is determined by player level. So if you're level one, bandits will attack you with cardboard swords and arrows with suckers on the end; if you're level thirty, they will have ludicrously expensive glass swords and incredibly rare Daedric armour. This is rather like your average mugger not using a knife or pistol, but an attack helicopter and rocket launcher. To make it even less believable, the Daedric armor is virtually impossible to get otherwise- It's worn by the top ranking demons within the hell hierarchy. Even stranger, the area the game takes place in is supposed to be the center of the Empire that controls the known world, and the city you start in is its capital, yet the merchants only carry the weakest, most pathetic weapons imaginable. Things like chainmail and silvered weapons are only discovered/developed as you gain levels, apparently.
    • Present in Skyrim as well, albeit downplayed from Oblivion; you'll never see bandits in Daedric armor, but the general level of gear found in the world does increase as you play. You can justify some of it if you Fan Wank hard enough; the player is constantly delving into ruins that have lain untouched for aeons and bringing out priceless treasures which he turns around and sells in town. That's a whole lot of new wealth being pumped into the local economy, and with a war going, maybe it's not surprising that a lot of it goes into creating or importing high-quality armaments.
  • Etrian Odyssey games play with this while averting Money Spider. You play as an adventuring team exploring vast ruins or other such uncharted territory, collecting the local wildlife's Random Drops to sell back home. The store that buys these items uses them to furnish you with better medicine, armor and weaponry. Sell varied stuff and more new goods will keep popping up; as the monsters become deadlier, their drops become more valuable and more powerful items can be created. Beautiful and simple.

  • Vaguely justified with the weapon styles and gems in Jade Empire, since you start in a tiny village, before moving to a small town and then the capital before heading off to the temple at Dirge, at which point the hideously powerful gems you find are specifically pointed out by your companion. With the martial arts styles, magic styles and support styles the game averts this trope: the styles you learn while the game progresses are not necessarily better, just different. Three of the four martial arts styles you acquire are ones you would've had right from the beginning if you'd chosen a different player character.

  • Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is an special headscratcher. The last town in the game (literally at the feet of the final dungeon) is a speck of an island completely surrounded by sharp rocks, and and as far out into the ocean as you can get. There's no plausible explanation as to why the town even exists, much less why it carries absurdly powerful items (or why they're made of Phlebotinum not found elsewhere in the game).
    • Another head-scratcher is when the merchant selling said merchandise explicitly states that these are the strongest items in the world, despite the players (and presumably everyone else) needing to invent the world's first airship to even get there in the first place.
  • Justified in Mana Khemia, because you're a student at an alchemy school, and you supposedly learn more if you create your own equipment using alchemy.
  • Mass Effect, oh so very much. All items come in up to 10 levels of increasing quality, and ALL dropped items will be within a certain level bracket, depending on your own level. It doesn't matter where you are: Enemies simply level up with you and will always have appropriate gear on them, the same goes for merchants. It also means that gear given to you by Earth military at the start is pretty much the worst equipment in the galaxy, despite being an elite officer on a highly important mission.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda does this as well, thanks to the game's crafting system. Even if you decide to cut out the vendors and craft your own weapons (which is how you'll get most of your hardware) you have to research the level of that weapon first, which is - you guessed it - only available when you reach a certain level. Certain weapons will be stocked by vendors or contained in random drops, but the level the weapons are at will reflect your character's level, although sometimes the weapons stocked by vendors or peeled off the dead enemies will be marginally more effective than what you're capable of producing on your own. It's highly unlikely that you'll see the level 10 weapons before a New Game Plus, however.
  • Monster Hunter uses this trope in a particularly interesting way: almost all the weapons and armour in the game are made from bits of the creatures you vanquish (dragon bones, wyvern scales, Giant Enemy Crab shells, bioelectric organs, etc). The tougher the monster, the stronger the resulting weapon will be.
  • Parasite Eve presents you with progressively better weapons, and rare pickups which allow you to customize your weapons. The limited inventory conspires to make you use an upgrade right away, only to later wish you'd kept it to use on the next gun. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that you can transfer an upgrade from an older weapon to a new one, though it takes an exceptionally rare item to salvage more than one of these upgrades from any given weapon. If you're stubborn enough you can eventually obtain the Super Tool Kit which basically gives you carte blanche to customizing. It's really awesome and a desperate necessity if you want to beat the bonus dungeons.
  • Persona 3. Officer Kurokawa steadily and gradually acquires better and more expensive weapons and armour from his 'connections' as the months of the year pass by, with no explanation as to why he didn't just bring out the high-grade stuff from the get-go. He also suddenly acquires the new weapons for your newest party members, even if you haven't had said party member join you yet and he had no idea said party member was going to join you at all.
    • Persona 4 at least justifies this trope with the better weapons coming from the town smith, who makes the weapons from crafting materials you bring him from the TV world. Thus, as you unlock new worlds and meet stronger foes, you get better materials he can make better weapons from.
  • Subverted and later played painfully straight in Evil Islands. You start with nothing but a bronze knife - which you will hold on through most of the first act since you've landed in a Stone Age world. Near the end, when you'll have to face the final boss you will be able to buy best weapons and armor for free.
  • The Phantasy Star franchise typically plays this straight, but one weapon in Phantasy Star II is a subversion. When you get access to the planet Dezo, their shops sell gear made of laconia, one of the hardest minerals known to the Algol star system, so it makes sense that it would be so powerful. One weapon, the Laconia Dagger, is, for no obvious reason, weaker than the Scalpel sold back on Mota, and it still retails for 18,400 meseta, making the Laser Knives from back in Zema better weapons for Shir. The later remake of the game suggests that this might have been an error in programming, because the dagger has been heavily buffed to a more appropriate strength.
  • In the Pokémon games, the best items can only be found far away from your starting town. Even when there are rare items hidden in low level areas, they are inaccessible until later in the story. In the earlier generations this even applied to the Poké Marts, despite them being a region-wide shopping chain. Even malls or other shopping centers would lack several key staples, like Ultra Balls and Full Restores. On the other hand, places like Mt. Silver (a remote location that hardly anybody travels to) is a late game location and stocks these powerful items.
  • The original Shadow Hearts offers an expensive (and bizarre) service that allows you to increase the power of a weapon — it's hardly ever worth it, as the next weapon requires the process to start all over again. Of course, once you've found someone's Infinity +1 Sword, then there's no reason not to tune it up that way.
  • All of the Star Ocean games contrive this in some manner or another, despite the fact that the games feature characters from technologically advanced cultures on much less advanced planets; usually they're stranded without access to their best weapons technology. Particularly odd in the third game, where Cliff's muscle enhancing "Mighty Gauntlet" has lower attack power than run-of-the-mill steel gauntlets simply because it's his starting weapon.
  • Super Mario RPG tries to explain this by implying that the best armors in the game were stolen by the treasure hunting Heel Face Turned master thief, Croco. Indeed, at the end of the game, Croco does sell some of the best purchasable armours. Amusingly, the very last consumables-selling shop in the game is plain 'ol Toad, carrying the best consumables in the game for no adequately explained reason. Perhaps he got them from Croco?
    • The exceptions are the best weapon and armor, the Lazy Shell and Lazy Shell Armor, respectively. They are non-purchasable "secrets" that you can first get about 3/4 to 4/5 of the way into the game, but still before the final stretch. In the tradition of hidden items, they're basically late-game game breakers, especially if you put the armor on the Princess. Along with an item that prevents one-hit kills, this basically makes her into an unkillable healer.
      • The Princess's best weapon is... a frying pan that you can purchase in Moleville, the town where you find the third star. Granted, the store won't carry it until late in the game — the shopkeeper is a treasure hunter — but one still wonders about it.
  • A variant exists in Tales of Hearts, where a single magical weapon is your equipment for the entire game and can be "Soma Evolved" into more powerful forms that grant you better stats and abilities, rather than buying new weapons or armor. However, most of each level's abilities require ingredients from areas that are sorted more-or-less in order. A similar system was used to limit the Item Crafting in Tales of Vesperia.
  • Justified most of the time in Tales of Phantasia. The present-time, where you begin, is a generally peaceful and safe age, where the only things most people worry about are roving monsters. Also, you visit only one city with shops in that age. The Past and Future, on the other hand, are both in the middle of a war with Dhaos. The sorting algorithm makes sense as you travel through the Past, since the further you go (and the better the weapons get) you're also getting closer to the war-front, and the nations that are actively involved in the war and would need the better weapons. It makes sense that better gear is available in the future, but all reason having to do with the order obtained and where it's found goes out the window, where out-of-the-way villages nobody really cares about sell freaking lightsabers.

    Simulation Game 
  • The later a plane is available in an Ace Combat game, the statistically better it usually is, with the Game-Breaker superfighters almost always endgame or New Game Plus-tier, except for Old Save Bonus. Anything you can get your hands on from the beginning of the game will turn like a brick and have low ammo counts with simpler special weapons like unguided bombs, inaccurate rocket launchers and machine gun pods, while end-game planes will be able to maneuver much more quickly, hold upwards of twice as many missiles, and use more advanced special weapons like 4-, 8- and even 12-target missiles, railguns, and the Tactical Laser System.
  • Justified in Civilization, considering that you play as a civilization and you have to research bows/crossbows/muskets/rifles/Giant Death Robots.
  • Freelancer takes this to an almost ridiculous extreme, with the Liberty race having absolutely pathetic ships, and the pirates of all people with the best two ships in the game.
    • The pirates are at least given some justification (both Hispania-descended factions are specifically noted to be master shipwrights if you find their homeworlds). Why there are civilian ships outclassing the military ships of Liberty, on the other hand...
  • Justified for the most part in the MechWarrior series, since you generally get new guns and Mechs via salvage. Meaning in order to grab a Mad Cat, for instance, you had to be able to beat one, first.
  • In Vietcong, this only occurs in the campaign, where the player starts with just a knife. Averted for the rest of the game.

    Survival Horror 
  • Resident Evil 4's wandering merchant sells you progressively better weapons as the game progresses. A particularly annoying example, as he also sells you upgrades for your current weapons. So, you spend 80,000 pesetas upgrading your shotgun so it can carry 9 rounds and has a power level of 8, then the riot gun (which uses the same ammo) becomes available for 40,000 pesetas, carries 10 rounds, and starts with a power level of 9.5.
    • It does compensate for this somewhat by making the earlier weapons better than the later weapons when they're fully upgraded (or at least gives them some advantage). For example the "Broken Butterfly" revolver ends up more powerful than the semi-automatic "Killer7" (both use the game's rare-but-powerful magnum rounds) and the bolt action rifle ends up more powerful (albeit slower) than the semi-automatic sniper rifle. And while the Striker's exclusive upgrade (what you get when it's fully upgraded) gives it a hundred-round magazine, the first shotgun's exclusive upgrade lets it deal full damage if so much as one pellet touches an enemy.
    • Also, when you sell your old weapons, you get much more cash for selling an upgraded weapon than one you never touched, allowing you to recoup your costs quite a bit when switching to the newer guns.

    Third Person Shooter 

    Turn Based Tactics 
  • Jagged Alliance 2 plays this straight: your opponents all start out wielding pistols while your mercs brandish SMGs. The availability of weapons on both sides gradually go upwards. Unless you decide to attack Meduna directly, which is guaranteed to go badly for you, even with Unusable Enemy Equipment turned off, because merc MP5s against enemy M249s will not end well.
  • 3D spiritual successor to Jagged Alliance, 7.62 High Caliber, plays this just as straight. Everyone except intentionally high level characters (like rebels and government soldiers/cops) starts with pistols and cheap, low capacity shotguns. Even the enemies that start off with more equipment simply have better shotguns or submachine guns. Assault rifles come just before the midpoint, and their automatic fire (and often having folding stocks or otherwise compact dimensions) makes them a general jack-of-all-trades weapon that outclass SMGs entirely, relegating them to backup. Sniper rifles come after that, followed by rocket launchers and grenade launchers (though you can find them very rarely before they show up in shops). Because you're adventuring on a single map, the increase is represented by NPCs gaining new guns and merchants having better selections.
  • Phantom Doctrine: All classes of weapons are available from the start, and you get new gear as loot on missions. The quality of loot that you pick up steadily increases over the game, with the relative power of the guns only coincidentally matching their real-world equivalents (most notably, the last 9mm sub machine gun that you find is twice as powerful as the first).
  • Somewhat justified in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, as your scientists are feverishly reverse-engineering alien tech and turning it into ever-newer and -shinier toys for the soldiers to kill those same aliens with.
    • Done again in the sequel, XCOM 2, with your R&D department reverse-engineering alien technology to produce bigger and better guns and armor for your soldiers.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Bully releases weapons slowly. The slingshot isn't a bad weapon for most (and the rest) of the game, the (inaccurate but explosive) bottle rocket cannon and the (painful) spudgun come up only much later.
  • Crackdown half-follows this trope by starting you out with an assault rifle while basic street thugs cart around machine guns on the first island, rocket launchers on the second, and homing rocket launchers on the third.
  • The Far Cry series plays this straight as an arrow, particularly in the later open-world games where the game world is generally split between two major areas, and the weapons available to you are in turn split. Far Cry 2's starting G3 takes six to eight bullets to kill a single unarmored guy, with primary assault rifles gradually getting stronger through the AK unlocked through doing favors for the arms dealer, the FAL in the second half of the game, and finally the AR-16 through more favors, which kills almost anyone within one three-shot burst. Heavy weapons mounted on technicals and at checkpoints are universally the M249 in the first half, and as you get into the second you start seeing the heavier Browning M2 and even a Mk 19 grenade launcher. Even the Signature weapons, introduced in Far Cry 3, start to fall to this pattern in 4; start off unlocking the "Sixer" Webley for the daunting task of simply visiting the store for the first time, which is barely a step up from the regular version that gets outclassed so quickly enemies stop carrying it after the tutorial, end with ridiculous things like the "Buzzsaw" MG 42 for the small feat of taking over every bell tower in the game world, which almost carries more ammo in its belt than you can hold in reserve and deals so much damage you don't need anything else, even for the occasional vehicle that doesn't die under a nanosecond's worth of fire.
  • In The Godfather: The Game, while you may acquire the full stock of level 1 weaponry quite early, the upgrades for the better guns are available only in later-visited parts of NYC and cost more. Ultimately, upgrade for upgrade, the starting .38 snubnose still pales to pretty much everything else.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas tries to keep this in effect. The weapons you can't get in the starting city are the M4 (better assault rifle) and some of the heavy weapons, which can show up in later towns. The gun shops unlock according to a pattern as well... although there's nothing stopping you from sidequesting your way to an arsenal, and there's still hidden weapon spawns where you can pick them up (with the bonus of them being free). Experienced GTA players know where the good drops are and will often stock up on ammo (the only way for them to respawn is to either save the game and advance time forward, or move a sufficient distance away) by Save Scumming at the nearest safehouse and making a few "gun runs".
  • Scarface: The World Is Yours uses this. Handguns go up from a weaksauce .38 through a .45 to the mighty Desert Eagle, the SAW gives you the best More Dakka deal compared to the AK or the M16, etc.
  • In S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, the outpost where you start is separated from the outside world by only by a half-hearted military cordon and some Insurmountable Waist Height Fences, so of course you can only find low-end shotguns, light pistols, and the odd submachine gun there despite the local trader being the only one mentioned as capable of getting things in and out of the Zone. Deeper in the Zone, various factions employ a wide variety of high-quality military equipment, and at its heart, the insane, isolated Monolith faction somehow have access to military exoskeletons, rocket propelled grenades, and the best rifles in the game. Mild subversion as despite only being able to purchase low-end weapons in the starting area, there are a handful of decent assault rifles nearby of the type that you'll be using for the first half of the game. It's just that the people holding them are rather reluctant to give them up, and much like the Fallout example, finding ammunition for those weapons will be tricky for a while.
    • Averted in the sequel, Call of Pripyat, in which some of the best weapons can be found in the first area (if you know where to look) or bought from a gun dealer (if you have the cash). Also, in stark contrast to the first game, where you had nothing but a knife and a weak pistol at the start, you start the game also armed with an assault rifle and some grenades.
  • Terraria, in spades. You start out with a copper shortsword that is so bad, even a wooden sword will do the job better. As you progress through the game, you start to acquire more and more powerful weaponry, eventually fusing together fragments of the cosmos to create giant, burning flails that pierce through blocks and destroy everything.
    • In the Terraria Calamity mod, you get huge tiers of post-final boss gear. After defeating a physical god and a entity known for its power to devour gods, you get the Exoblade, which fires exploding exobeams, freezes enemies in place, deals more damage the lower your HP is, and has a chance to instantly kill anything it touches.

Non-video game examples:

    Comic Books 
  • The Doom comic has this as its entire plot; although the Doomguy starts out with his berserk pack-enhanced fists and insists "guns are for wusses", the effects of the pack wear off right as he starts trying to punch out a Cyberdemon, forcing him to retreat and look for a big gun to deal with it. He spends the rest of the comic constantly upgrading his firepower: a chainsaw found on the ground, with which he liberates a shotgun from a zombie, which he drops after killing another zombie which had a chaingun, then a plasma gun acquired after running out of ammo for the chaingun, before finally acquiring the "holy grail of firepower" in the BFG9000, which he uses to kill the Cyberdemon. Lampshaded when he uses the shotgun to kill a full room of zombies, admits his healthy, deeply-felt respect for that shotgun, then in the very next panel says "the hell with respect" and drops it for the chaingun.

     Fan Works 
  • In The Keys Stand Alone, at least in regards to the Pyar cities, the really good stuff can only be found in the very dangerous cities of Darrodech (tech items) and Daarthayu (magic items and spells). Tevri'ed, the safest city, has a vast supply of everyday items but relatively weak magic and tech.
    • This is only mentioned in passing; the four never do go looking for anything strong, except for the amulet that will give Ringo the ability to see through masks, and that's not exactly in a store.

  • Falling Down with Michael Douglas is the film example of this trope, to the point where it's inspired at least one GTA: San Andreas mod and this video. He first walks into a store and antagonises the owner until he pulls out a bat, then takes the bat off him. He goes into gang-land and beats two of them up with the bat, pocketing their butterfly knife as they flee. The gang come back with a drive-by, miss and crash, and he pockets a duffel bag full of guns. He walks into an army surplus store, gets bum-rushed by the owner, kills him, and takes a rocket launcher he was keeping in the back. After this, though, it's inverted, with D-Fens using a shotgun to destroy a golf cart, dropping back to a pistol when he finally arrives at his former home before losing that and using a water pistol to invoke Suicide by Cop.

  • The Green Martians in John Carter of Mars have this as part of their honor code. The order is fists, dagger, short sword, long sword, spear, pistol, rifle. Choosing a weapon higher up on the ladder than your opponent is considered highly dishonorable.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, and Deathwatch all play this trope straighter than an arrow. A Low Rank PC in those games not only has no access to many weapons, but he doesn't even earn the ability to learn to use them effectively until high level. It's most pronounced in Dark Heresy, where a starting character is limited mostly to the crappiest gear in all three games. In Deathwatch, the players are each a Super-Soldier in Powered Armor with a gun that's an automatic grenade launcher. They still need to advance to get the weapons they'll need to take on the strongest enemies in the game. Rogue Trader starts its heroes with some excellent gear (for normal humans) but there are still items starting players just aren't going to have.
    • Second edition Dark Heresy averts this as you can buy something like plasma rifle training from the start. You most likely wont have enough influence to buy ammo though, certainly not enough to buy the gun itself.
  • In general Dungeons & Dragons expects you to pass out treasure like this. Low level parties should only find weaker magical items, and they will slowly find better gear as they advance. In 3rd Edition and 3.5 in particular, the higher level content is balanced on the assumption that the party is steadily increasing the power of their magical gear, meaning it can be tricky to run things up for those who want a game where magic items are rare and precious. The random treasure tables are even weighted to try to cause this.
    • In general this means that player characters who are under-geared (compared to where they are expected to be) should be treated as being lower in level for the purposes of awarding experience and designing challenge, while characters with gear above where it "should" be can be treated as higher level.
    • 4th Edition takes this even further. All magical items now come with levels. Any player character with the Ritual Caster feat and the Enchant Magic Item ritual can automatically turn money into any item of his level or lower (most of the time you are assumed to be able to turn the same money into the same item in a shop anyway). Similarly, you can convert obsolete items into a fifth the money the item cost. As in 3.5, the game assumes you are following this suggested approach, making magic just a sufficiently advanced technology.
    • In First, Third, and Fourth, even your fists might be subject to this, especially as a Monk.
      • Third forced characters to have a certain level before creating certain items, as does Pathfinder. Earlier editions left it up to the GM to decide when and what a player could create and could require the player to undertake any manner of quest to find what he needs to make an item. A classic example is needing "a thief's courage" as an ingredient for making a Rope of Climbing. This let the GM set the slope of the Sorting Algorithm, but still played it straight.
    • Pathfinder takes the exact same approach. New characters created above 1st level are even given a budget for their starting gear with a maximum on how much they can spend on any one object, preventing them from buying an item outside what the magical item tables should give them. Then there are adjustments to the rate at which said items appear based on how fast the GM wishes the game to progress, but not the order they should show up in. Sometimes a very powerful item may show up early, but it's unlikely, and a good GM is always careful about what he lets sneak into his game.
    • While fifth edition explicitly notes that it is balancing assuming the players don't have magic gear, the game still obviously expects you to follow this. The treasure tables are segmented by challenge rating so that the magic items dropped will match the level of the party. The Dungeon Master's guide also includes a table on creating higher level characters and how many magic items of which rarity they get based on their level.
  • Paranoia plays with this trope. New player characters are given R&D gear which is as likely to kill the user and most of the sector it's in as it is to kill the bad guy. They are expected to test this equipment, never sure if they have a portable tactical nuke or a fully automatic Boston cream pie launcher. Players also are issued lasers which are Color-Coded for Your Convenience along ROY G BIV lines. Red is crappy, and all later color armors stop it. Violet tears through all the other colors and violet armor would pretty much stop everything else dead. Obviously, player characters start as Red and have a life expectancy that would make them jealous of mayflies. Now report for brainscrub for learning this, traitor.

    Real Life 
  • If a war lasts long enough, research and development can come up with better weapons as the war progresses. The most extreme example would be World War II, with nuclear bombs being developed mid-war. Even the regular small arms fell to this; weapons like the (in)famous Thompson and PPSh-41 SMGs were retired either during or immediately after the war, because designs that came about along the way did their jobs just as well, but at half the cost and a fraction of the manufacturing time.
    • The simplest reason for this is the idea of the war economy — the notion that war is simply good for business. And the best way to attract investors is to be bigger and badder than whatever came before. Thus, war drives innovation in science and technology like nothing else. Aeroplanes, nuclear fission power, space travel, automated aerial drones... little gets humanity's greatest minds going quite like coming up with new and inventive ways to kill each other or stop our friends from being killed.
      • Of course, sufficiently long or one-sided wars eat up resources, eventually averting this trope and leading to soldiers using glorified Improvised Weapons. People have beaten tire irons into makeshift machetes, for instance, specifically to keep fighting when bullets are scarce.


    Action Adventure 
  • Inverted in Advent Rising, giving you powerful weapons starting off, and weaning you down to be able to fight enemies with nothing more than your body... and your mystic powers. You can still use weapons, it's just not as much fun.
  • The best weapon in the Assassin's Creed games is the hidden blade for anyone that's skilled with counter kills. Once you get that, all other melee weapons are useless. Later games have had to make bosses immune to counter kills just to prevent the player from beating them in one attack. Since the hidden blade is the trademark weapon of the series, it's always one of your first weapons. The real subversion comes in with the armor, where the stronger sets only become available as the game goes on, including the unique sets only being available after a certain point.
  • While the enemies of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild scale with the player and by extension their weapon drops, it's possible to manipulate the game to make that happen earlynote . In-map weapons are set in specific locations and shrines; the Master Sword and Hyrule Shield, the most powerful weapon and gear in their categories, are available from the start of the game, with only a small health requirement for the former.
  • The first No More Heroes played this straight- each new Beam Katana you acquire pretty much replaces the last. But the sequel Desperate Struggle thankfully removes it - you get a variety of different weapons (some of which are obtained for free) which all have strengths and weaknesses, and are useful in different situations. You can also now switch weapons at any time, and Travis stylishly carries all of them hanging from his belt.

    Beat Em Up 
  • God Hand subverts this. On the one hand, there are moves that have versions dealing more damage. On the other hand, newly purchasable moves are not always better. For example, some may deal more damage but are slower and more easily punished, or have less area-coverage, or less reach etc. Fortunately, there is a practice mode that allows you to take them for a spin prior to committing to a purchase.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Many historically based First Person Shooters avoid this trope. Different guns may have different pros and cons, and you might find a BFG down the line, but the military generally tries to give you the best equipment it can from the get go. To do otherwise would be stupid. The Medal of Honor games, for example, usually give you the mighty M1 Garand as your first weapon.
    • These sorts of games can still play it semi-straight by giving you standard-issue weapons, whereas elite soldiers or special forces might get better kit. A modern-day shooter might start you off with a basic M16 or M4, but over time you could get more accurate sights, an M203 grenade launcher, or a full special forces mod kit, or even an XM8, despite that the M8 project got Screwed By The Military-Industrial Complex.
  • Modern online multiplayer FPS games with RPG-like unlock systems may or may not use this trope. It depends largely on personal preference, how the unlocks interact with one another, and exactly how the game is balanced (and, later, patched). Of course, the players generally expect that the later unlocks will be better: both the high-level ones that are fretting about the unlocks being underpowered, and the new players who are fretting over being ineffective compared to players with unlocks.
  • Bioshock goes both ways with this. It gives you the Tommy gun and shotgun during the second stage (the first being a very brief intro stage) and the rocket launcher during the third, the actual rocket launcher and chemical thrower only appear once in the whole game, and you can often find ammo lying around (and pick it up!) before you get the weapons themselves. Weapon upgrade stations appear starting at the end of the third stage, and you can decide which upgrades to get first. However, higher-level plasmids only appear later on in the game.
  • Averted in the Blake Stone games. For almost every enemy except the plasmoids, bosses, and the tough-ass camouflage-clad security guards, the starting rechargeable pistol is your best bet. It gains strength based on proximity to your foe, uses no ammunition, and it is freakin' silent. An awesome, awesome little gun, though the shooting sound effect will leave you on the floor laughing the first time you hear it. It is, quite literally, a "bloop." There is nothing like hearing Blake's pistol followed by a blood-curdling death scream. Made all the more funny by every enemy having a single death animation. That's quite the silenced pistol there, causing giant green plant beasts to explode and limbs to fly every which way with that one unassumingly horrifying little "bloop".
  • Command & Conquer: Renegade manages to both play it straight and subvert it.
    • You start the game with just a supposedly weak silenced pistol... which has unlimited reserve ammunition and can take out almost all infantry you encounter in a single shot if your headshot game is good, allowing you to save the other, limited ammo types for when you actually need them. If you're a good shot, it can carry you through half the game entirely on its own until the point where snipers that simply outrange it show up, and even then it's still good for the rest of the game if you're smart about when to use it.
    • Another one of the most effective weapons happens to be the flamethrower, which you get in the second level. The range of the flame spewed is very generous, ammo is in constant supply because Nod flamethrower soldiers that drop its ammo appear in every level after they're introduced, and save for vehicles (which still take a good amount of damage from flames), turrets (which C4 is a better bet against) and the flamethrower soldiers themselves, fire stunlocks anything. The flamethrower is only really outclassed in the final two levels when Nod officers begin carrying the Tarantula laser chaingun which does everything it does just as well (no washing over several enemies in return for no maximum range either), and even still it's a good sidearm.
    • Conversely, most of the Tiberium-based weapons are patently useless, despite their incredible power and relatively generous ammo, because except for the Chemical Sprayer they're all introduced at the same point mutants who are healed by exposure to Tiberium take over for most of the basic mooks - you don't even get more than one magazine for the flechette gun. Even the Chemical Sprayer suffers in comparison to the flamethrower since, while it's even more effective than the flamethrower against infantry, like all the other Tiberium weapons it has a considerable chance of mutating an enemy into a Visceroid rather than outright killing them, so you need to spend ammo from a conventional weapon to kill that anyway.
  • Averted in Deus Ex. You gain a lot of the better weapons early on — the GEP gun (rocket launcher) and sniper rifle, which remain among the most useful weapons all the way to the end, can be obtained as you begin the first mission. As well, a great many of the seemingly weak weapons you get early on prove to be very useful for the entire game's run. You do gain a few more powerful weapons (a nanosword, flamethrower, plasma rifle and assault shotgun)... as late as a mere third of the way through the game.
    • This can be partially explained by the game being skills-based; the effectiveness and usefulness of these weapons will be considerably affected by your skills in using that type of weapon, the types of weapon your augmentations complement, and the upgrades you apply to each weapon. Upgradeable weapons are so important that they were the primary means of character-building in the sequel.
    • The other thing to consider is that, unlike many other games, enemies don't really get any more powerful as you progress - there are merely more of them, positioned more intelligently and better able to respond to threats. An MJ12 soldier at the end of the game will still go down with a single pistol bullet to the head or stun prod to the back just the same as an NSF soldier would at the beginning, if you can get away with it.
  • While Doom is generally known as the grand-daddy of this trope (and the FPS genre as a whole, pretty much), Doom II surprisingly averts this. There are actually quite a few BFGs (as in a BFG, not The BFG), including the super shotgun, within the first third of the game and even a rocket launcher in the very first level if you know where to look. Furthermore, most levels aren't particularly ammo-biased, due to the fact that there are only four types of ammo in the game for eight different ranged weapons, and generally ammo will start showing up for a weapon by the earliest point you can get it, even through secrets. Frequently, unless playing on ITYTD or Nightmare level, where all ammo is doubled, a player may get into an ammo crunch and use weapons that aren't geared for the task simply because the cautious or paranoid player has hoarded up ammo for that particular gun. This often leads to a strange phenomenon where Chaingun and Shotgun ammo run dry but Plasma and Rocket ammo are in near-redundant abundance.
    • Doom (2016) toys with it - you start out with a dinky pistol in the first level, but pick up a shotgun not long after that never stops being effective through the end of the game, even as bigger and bigger guns are unlocked. Later weapons tend to have restrictive ammunition pools, which along with weapon upgrades keep the earlier guns from becoming obsolete.
    • Doom Eternal completely averts the trope. You get all weapons (sans the Crucible) by around the third of the game but thanks to the reduced ammo pool and the different effectiveness of different weapons on different demons, all of them remain useful even in the final boss battle.
  • Duke Nukem 3D totally ignores this, hiding almost every weapon in almost every level at least once (ignoring the fact that the last four don't appear in the shareware portion that is). Most are in secret areas though. Notably, the Devastator, which has the best DPS in the game, is located five feet from the starting position of the first level of Episode Three, and if you know where to look in the first level of Episode One, you can get two RPG's and an ammo pack before meeting your third enemy.
  • Averted in two ways in Far Cry 5. First, the best weapons in the game are unlocked in stores once you reach the midlevel, not the end — the end level stuff is cool but not really that great for the most part. Secondly, there are Prestige weapons that have unique paint jobs and cost a bundle to purchase, but are available from the beginning of the game. With a fishing rod, you can find a dock with a store and easily earn the money you need to buy several of these guns after a couple hours of grinding right after finishing the game's tutorial.
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One is a textbook inversion. The first weapon you get to fight with is the super-charged gravity gun from the main game's finale, which then discharges, and you acquire progressively less powerful weapons throughout the game, all the way to the crowbar.
    • The superb accuracy of the pistol in the original, combined with doing more damage-per-shot than the SMG it shared ammo with, meant it never lost its usefulness until the very end.
    • The gravity gun itself is a very powerful tool/weapon that you get reasonably early in the game and can take on almost everything the game throws at you after that point with it and random clutter; there's even an achievement in Episode One for only firing a single regular bullet, to Shoot Out the Lock on one door.
    • Episode 2 gives you a healthy cross-section of your arsenal within the first few minutes, without the usual few rooms demonstrating the strengths of each. Developer commentary says this was intentional, expecting players had gone through the main game and Episode 1 already and knew their preferred weapon by now.
    • Opposing Force actually gives the player the Desert Eagle and the shotgun before the 9mm pistol.
  • Present to an extent in Halo, though it's never fully in force because all the weapon types retain their various strengths and weaknesses, with none completely eclipsing another in all situations.
    • Halo: Combat Evolved starts you off with just a pistol, and works you up to an assault rifle and various energy weapons, then grants sniper rifles, rocket launchers and shotguns at about the time when they start being necessary for survival. As noted, this isn't fully in force, because each weapon has its own use case - assault rifles and shotguns reign supreme in cramped quarters and against lower-tier Grunts and Jackals, while more open areas and stronger Elites and Hunters lean towards the sniper rifle or rocket launcher's strengths. Heck, the regular pistol, which you start with in nearly every level as well as most multiplayer matches, can be used to easily outdo most other weapons (including the rocket launcher at any range other than point-blank) thanks to a handy zoom function, good damage per shot (with headshots being an instant kill) and a reasonably high rate of firenote .
    • Using the Plasma Pistol's charged shot followed by a burst from the pistol, battle rifle, or DMR, all of which can be acquired in basically every level, does away with almost all Legendary-difficulty Elites and remains useful to the last.
    • At the meta level, the franchise's two-weapon carry limit and continual effort at weapon balance (apparently the Combat Evolved pistol's OPness was an accident right before the ship date) are meant to avert this trope - even if a weapon is good in just about any situation, you're eventually going to run out of ammo for it and have to drop it for something with a more limited use but greater ammo.
  • Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is an interesting aversion, considering how the rest of the series handles this — the first weapon you're given is the lightsaber. All of the regular blasters and the like retain usefulness (at least against non-Jedi enemies) if you want to use them, but it's still telling that, in a game with at least three missions where you deal with gigantic monstrosities that can kill you instantly if they get too close but can't even be damaged in turn (or, if they can, they just respawn endlessly), the level where you're simply forced to go without the lightsaber and shoot your way through nothing but regular stormtroopers with blasters for fifteen minutes is considered at least as bad as them.
  • While Marathon mostly follows the trope, the normally dinky fusion pistol can easily take down enemy machinery and is the only weapon which can hurt a player with the invincibility powerup.
    • Most of the weapons have their own uses throughout the game. The Magnum is one of the most accurate weapons, has pretty high damage, and can be dual-wielded for great firing rate; the Assault Rifle also does a good deal of damage rather quickly, part of its use in that each hit briefly stuns weaker bad guys, as well as shoot explosives; the Combat Shotguns, per pellet, do the same damage as a Magnum shot, and since it shoots around 20 of them, can be dual-wielded, and can be reloaded quickly in one hand, it would beat the Rocket Launcher in kill-everything potential if you could find more than a few rounds for it; the Rocket Launcher kills everything everywhere, period; the Flamethrower also pretty much killed anything everywhere, granted they weren't armored; the SMG was pretty much if the Assault Rifle traded its grenades for faster firing rate and better accuracy. The only weapon that didn't seem to fit was the Alien Weapon, which was mostly useful because it was somewhat accurate, had a lot of ammo, and didn't manage to kill you whenever you used it too close to something.
  • Averted in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2; despite the game featuring a level-up system where you unlock new weapons as you score points during the campaign, the weapons with the highest overall stats are the ones you start the game with, albeit with the occasional downside later weapons don't suffer quite as much from, such as the SG 552 assault rifle's ridiculous damage dropoff at long range. Additionally, in the singleplayer/co-op modes a lot of the later-unlocked weapons can be grabbed off of dead terrorists if you want - the AK-47, for instance, is both the last assault rifle unlocked with Assault points and the most common enemy weapon in the first mission.
  • Serious Sam avoids this trope too.
    • The chainsaw, sniper rifle and flamethrower, the new weapons added in The Second Encounter, are some of the best weapons in the game yet are also often the first three weapons you can find at the start of each chapter, found sooner than the double shotgun specifically to show off them off. Every game in the series also generally allows for the rocket launcher to be acquired from a secret area in the first five minutes, with ammo becoming generous enough for regular use not very long afterwards.
    • BFE makes this more apparent, with multiple secrets netting you weapons quite a while before you're supposed to get them, including one secret in the first twenty seconds getting you a shotgun and the Fusion 2017 version of the game adding another secret that nets you a rocket launcher within the first two minutes. Your starting melee weapon in the game is also a sledgehammer, which is powerful enough that everything you fight until the boss of the second level can be instantly pasted with one swing.
  • As per the above, Team Fortress 2 averts this; the starting weapons are just fine even compared to unlocks and randomly acquired weapons; most alternate weapons have some kind of downside to balance their utility, where the stock weapons have no deficiencies. This means that a new player with no items can still be effective against a veteran player with every weapon in the game, and only a very small handful of items (consisting mostly of esoteric melee weapons) are straight upgrades, most of which have since been patched to have a downside.
  • TRON 2.0 zig-zags this. Your first (and fallback) weapon is the iconic Deadly Disc. This is actually very effective against most kinds of enemies and uses no energy. Other weapons, like the LOL (sniper rifle), Ball Storm or the Prankster Bit can come with a massive energy cost, making them only good for a few shots before you have to refuel. In the case of the Prankster Bit, firing it at too close of a range is just as likely to kill you as what you're shooting. Most players, as a result, fall right back to the disc or one of its upgrades like Sequencer (splitting your disc into multiple parts and firing them) or Cluster (disc with shrapnel).
  • Subverted with some weapons in the Turok series, especially after the first game. However the ammunition for the next few weapons above the starter weapons is much more common than your starting weapons' alternate fire modes. You don't get the BFGs (and there are many) until the last 3 or 2 levels in every Turok, however. Made slightly more annoying by the fact they tease you about getting them with the hub system, but you usually need abilities/gear from the previous hubs to fully complete the more 'advanced' hubs, or at the least find the weapons.
  • Averted in Unreal. Despite it being a long game by FPS standards, you have every weapon just past the halfway point, and weapons that are useful to start with generally retain their usefulness. The Dispersion Pistol, your Ranged Emergency Weapon, also gets upgrades throughout the game to make it keep up (so much that, before being patched to weaken it slightly, the fully upgraded version was a total Game-Breaker, one hit killing anything when aided by the Amplifier, including the final boss), and the Automag, the second weapon you find at the very start of the second level, stays as the best fast-firing hitscan gun around, better than even the Minigun's inefficient dakka. The expansion pack goes the same path, by gifting Prisoner 849 the Combat Assault Rifle nicely packed in an airdrop crate before you even get into your first serious battle.

  • Final Fantasy XIV subverts this in availability, where just about everything in one content cycle is available from merchants in the main hub area(s) of that cycle (e.g. level 1 to 50 gear in the three starting cities, level 50 to 60 in Ishgard from Heavensward, etc.), and the prices remain relatively low for how much money you'd reasonably expect to have at the levels the gear is meant for - the only problem is you simply can't use higher-level gear until you're at the appropriate level, by which point you'll usually get it for free from quest rewards, with expansion storylines frequently giving you higher-quality versions of that gear that gives them slightly better stats. These merchants are mostly good for re-equipping other classes if you decide to start leveling them but have long since sold off the appropriate gear for those lower levels.
  • Guild Wars averts this, in part due to its low max-level barrier. There is no physical restriction preventing a level 5 character from wearing armor with the maximum protection. However, as all armor is class-restricted (and possibly personalized), the character will generally have to craft their own at the appropriate towns. These towns will generally be unreachable until the character reaches the appropriate level, or is run there by another player.
  • Perfect World kind of halfway subverts this. You can buy all weapons and armor from level 1 to 6 (that is around character levels 1-mid 40s) in your starting zone, but you can't use them. As you grow in levels and add attribute points, you will be able to use the stronger weapons/armor. Then Twilight Temple becomes available, you get godlike gear, and the merchants in any part of the world are all but useless.
  • Star Trek Online averts this completely at the endgame. You have basic phasers as a Starfleet player or disruptors as a Klingon player, both of which require the lowest skillpoint cost to be fully effective. Each weapon type has a 2.5% chance to cause a special debuff on a target: phasers cause a target's shields/weapons/engines to fail for 10 seconds, and disruptors cause a target to lose damage resistance for 10 seconds. Later you will get access to plasma beams/cannons that have a chance to cause cause (minor) damage over time, tetryon weapons that can do extra shield damage, polaron weapons that can drain enemy ship power and antiproton weapons that simply do more critical hit damage. Each of these special abilities only has that 2.5% chance to activate on a successful hit and all weapons do the same damage when fully skilled. However, the skillpoint cost of plasma/tetryon is higher than phasers/disruptors and polaron/antiproton weapons cost even more skillpoints. This means phasers and disruptors are still viable options at endgame.
    • Torpedo weapons get similar treatment. Photons have the highest damage per second but low volley damage, quantums are the opposite. There are also plasma torpedoes which can hit for massive damage but can be shot down, transphasic torpedoes which are a lot weaker than photons but 20% of their damage bypasses shields (this does not make them better than photons at all), chroniton torpedoes slow down a target for a few seconds but do poor damage, and tricobalt torpedoes do insane massive damage but have the longest cooldown time (30 seconds, as opposed to 6 seconds for photons) and tricobalts can be shot down too. All the torpedo types above photon and quantum cost a great deal more skillpoints, making the first two the most effective torpedo types at endgame.

    Platform Game 
  • Can be played straight or averted in the Mega Man and Mega Man X series, where you could beat the bosses in any order. You could get the Metal Blade early in Mega Man 2 by beating Metal Man as the first boss, and most later weapons won't come close.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Greatly averted by Battle Realms. All units have one or two Battle Gears, which modify the unit's ability or damage, making 1st tier units just as important as 3rd tier ones. For example: Lotus Staff Adepts are a tier 1 unit and, while though, aren't really that strong a unit, but they gain the Battle Gear Dark Canopy, which covers other allied units in an anti-missile shield. Wolf Brawlers, while a good 1st tier tank, are quickly overshadowed by 3rd tier Berserkers. However, they gain the Zen Counterpunch, which allows them to deal huge damage against Heroes and other Zen Masters.

  • Ancient Domains of Mystery also averts this to a level. Even though most artifacts are found from quests or on NPCs, most artifacts can be randomly generated nearly anywhere. Most of the more powerful items, however, follow the games danger level. Luckily, the Nethack experience of low level monsters wielding deadly weapons is averted in that in ADOM, monsters can not use held items.
  • NetHack has no skewing of randomly generated items at all. Players have found legendary weapons such as Grayswandir lying on the floor in the first level. This doesn't necessarily work out for the player, since monsters can be smart enough to use randomly-generated artifacts themselves. Given enough playing experience, every NetHack player will eventually encounter the Gnome On Level One With A Wand Of Death.
  • Streets of Rogue plays this very straight for enemy gear, with cops going from weak batons in the slums to high-powered revolvers and machineguns in uptown as any easy example. It's mostly averted for the player however, it's uncommon but entirely possible to leave floor one with something like a shrink ray, time bomb, or water pistol full of cyanide that can effortlessly solve almost any problem. There is still something like an implied sorting algorithm since you'll have more money, more merchants and more containers to loot to increase the odds of acquiring better gear as you move through later floors and the fact that most powerful weapons are either single use or require very expensive ammunition keeps early BF Gs from trivializing runs.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Subverted in Albion, an RPG about a sci-fi space pilot from Earth who crash-lands on a fantasy jungle world populated by cat people and druids. No, really. You can obtain a pistol early on, an extremely powerful weapon, but ammo for it is limited and only found in small quantities in a very few places in the game. As a result, once your clip runs dry, you end up relying on local swords and shields for most of the rest of the game.
  • Averted in Alpha Protocol. Access to new black-market gear is dependent on what contacts you've made, which is only tangentially related to how much of the game you've completed. It's entirely possible to have access to the equipment you're looking for before you complete your second hub.
  • Arcanum averts this. If you're lucky, you may find a decent magical sword in the very first city... Only you couldn't afford it. Also, if you go by the minimal number of subquests, the second city you get to is a Capital with appropriately equipped shops (though you've still got to hoard enough gold). If you are willing to steal, you can get one of the best melee weapons in the game. This is because Arcanum gives you fate points that allow you to do an action at 100% success rate it's possible to pickpocket a unique sword that both magic users and technologists can use equally well. Additionally a technologist can early on get the schematics to make pyrotechnic axes (the best melee weapons of the game).
    • It's fairly simple to create a character capable of picking the locks on the chests in shops in the first city at level 1, allowing you access to items long before you would normally be able to afford them. Picking the locks in the capital city is harder but still easier than getting the money to buy the items.
  • Averted (but only with weapons) in Arc Rise Fantasia. Every single weapon in the game is a unique piece that you can only buy (or find) once, and all of them have unique elements that makes them particularly suited for some strategies and gameplay styles, making all the weapons from every store worthy in a sense, so much that the game don't even allow you to sell them.
  • Averted in Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, where later weapons are somewhat more effective but not greatly (especially compared to how much they cost), and the truly best weapons are the customizable ones, since you can staple on a variety of stat boosts and traits to fit your play style. Three of your six potential party members start with their customizable weapons, and a couple of the others are easily acquired relatively early.
  • Mostly played straight, but mildly averted in one case in Earth Bound. When you first get to the town of Winters, it's because you begin play as another character, and the store there offers weapons far beyond your current power (and price range). As this character starts off poor, and can't earn money, you cannot afford the items until you come back towards the end of the game. Or, if you are willing to invest an hour or two, repeatedly fighting an enemy who drops an item which can be sold for a small amount of money will get you the weapon (which remains effective for a significant portion of the game) early.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Morrowind generally averts it. Items outside of containers (ie lying open in the game world or equipped on NPCs) are static and never change, averting the trope. Because of this, it is possible to acquire some of the best equipment in the game at extremely low levels if you know where to look.Items inside of containers are pulled from "leveled lists", with better items more likely to appear at higher levels (with the Luck Stat also playing a role), downplaying the trope. Finally, merchants have the same stock regardless of your level when you visit them. The First Town merchant possesses some better items than merchants you won't run into until hours later, and larger cities tend to have merchants with better stock.
    • While generally played straight in Oblivion, as noted above, there are also exceptions. While almost all enemy equipment and chest contents are based on your level, items just lying around on tabletops, bookshelves, etc. are not leveled, and some of the most important equipment in the game can be obtained through simple theft, literally within minutes. What's more, due to a quirk of the leveling system, character level and power level don't necessarily have anything to do with each other. It's possible to max out most of the skills in the game (which are what determines a very large part of your overall power level) without ever reaching level 2. Even the weakest dagger in the game becomes a lethal joke item when you have the ability to enchant it with maxed out Destruction magic.
  • In Fable, you can buy the second best non-legendary one handed weapon, best non-legendary two-handed weapon, and the best armor in either the Guild or Bowerstone South before even starting your first quest.
    • Fable II subverts this as well, allowing you to buy steel weapons at the first blacksmith you find, although they are reasonably uncommon until later in the game.
  • In Fallout and 2 you can find enemies utilizing gauss weaponry (the strongest slug throwers) and plasma weapons (the strongest standard energy weapons) early on. It's even occasionally possible to find the crashed spacecraft and its alien blaster (the best energy weapon) within moments of leaving your initial location, though it's rare.
    • Further averted in Fallout 3, where you can acquire the Combat Shotgun, Chinese Assault Rifle and Sniper Rifle at level 2, and enemies carry for the most part random equipment. The only thing you won't find many of until the end of the game is plasma weaponry, as they're only carried by Enclave troops who don't start appearing until after the Waters of Life quest is completed, then they spawn all throughout the game world.
      • The first main quest after the tutorial gives you a Fat Man in reasonable condition with 5 nukes. The problem is that only a handful of vendors sell mini-nukes, and even then they never sell more than 3 at a time, for quite a bit, and only start selling them around level 14 (most first time players will be level 2-4 at this point). While there are mini-nukes in set places that you can go find, there are no clues on how to find them and some of them are in really dangerous places. So the game gives you one of its most powerful guns and a really good reason to use it (the 20-foot-tall super mutant behemoth) but ensures that you can't just use that gun all the time.
      • You can get the game's most badass Small Arm (Lincoln's Repeater) right from the start. Even if you haven't leveled the skill, it is brutally effective, and pretty much any Small Arms build's standard weapon. The only problem is that like the Fat Man it uses ammo that's still rare, though reasonably common compared to mini-nukes.
      • It was specifically stated in an interview with a developer that they could hand the player powerful weapons right from the start, as they needed ammunition to be used further. While unmentioned, even powerful melee weapons will require you to keep them repaired, and since you probably won't find too many of one kind in the beginning of the game to allow you to repair them with, getting good equipment repaired at a shop costs... a lot. Not to mention, the most powerful melee weapons in the game don't stop your enemies from shooting you to bits while you are currently out of range. In other words, all those bottlecaps (currency) you save by not buying ammunition? You're probably going to be spending them on stimpacks and other health-restoring items, no matter if you have the best armor in the game (which the rest of your caps are probably going to go for repairs on).
      • It is possible to get arguably the best weapon in the gamenote  early on by finishing The Replicated Man quest in a certain way,Spoiler  but you won't find parts to repair it with until after the Enclave show up.
      • Played straighter with power armor though, as to use power armor you need to find a suit and receive training, which can't happen until around the same time that the Enclave starts showing up. While a few vendors sell low condition helmets or suits, and it's easily possible to loot the armor from dead Brotherhood of Steel paladins, the only way to get training is to complete a large part of the main quest, or spend several hours playing the "Operation Anchorage" DLC. Further exacerbated by the fact that Tesla armor, the best armor in the game (barring the DLC only Hellfire armor and the unique T51-b), is only avalible in the last 2 main quests or at an Enclave outpost once you are over level 16. The only armor that comes close to power armor level of defense, Ranger armor, can be acquired straight away but requires you to do a very hard side quest found in the middle of downtown DC, a place low level players fear to tread.
    • Fallout: New Vegas zig-zags this a bit depending on your weapon choice. While at the start there are no power house weapons at all, most enemies until Novac only use 9mm pistols, dynamite, cleavers and varmit rifles, you can get your hands on some pretty decent guns if you know who to talk to and to do their petty quests. At the Repcon facility you can get your hands on dozens of plasma defenders (the best energy pistol) or rebar clubs (a powerful heavy melee weapon) with ease and use them for most of the game. The good vendors however are all in New Vegas (excepting the NCR quartermaster at Hoover Dam) and getting there before level 8 can be a big chore, and even then most of their high end guns are more than you can afford. The best explosive weapons are nigh impossible to get until level 20, requiring either a lot of running around for the Boomers or a trip into a deathclaw nest.
      • All the DLC for Fallout 3 and New Vegas avert this by giving you one of the best weapons they have to offer straight away (the Gauss rifle from "Operation Anchorage", the Auto Axe in "The Pitt", all the alien weaponry in "Mothership Zeta", the Holorifle in "Dead Money", the .45 pistol and SMGs in "Honest Hearts", and the Red Glare in "Lonesome Road" are all either given to you, available to purchase cheaply, or can be taken off of someone's corpse within the first five minutes), though the very best and unique variants are often given as a reward at the end of the DLC or require some obsessive side questing within the DLC.
      • Unlike the other Fallout 3 DLCs, Broken Steel's enemies (and the overpowered Hellfire Armor and Heavy Incinerator) don't appear until after you hit level 20, or after you complete the main questline (whichever comes first). It's still entirely possible to complete the main questline at a relatively low level, averting this trope.
  • Faxanadu has an exception as well along similar lines. A very powerful magic and shield are available at huge prices near the beginning of the game.
  • Usually the case in Final Fantasy games
    • Final Fantasy II manages to play it straight gameplay-wise but avert the strange implications story-wise: the big city where the heroes come from does carry the good stuff, but at first you can only afford inferior weapons because the small rural towns are the only ones not ruled by the Empire. Later you can liberate the capital and get access to the good ones.
    • Played with in Final Fantasy IV, where Baron and Myst (the first two towns) sell mid-game equips that you, for story reasons, can't get your hands on: the armory is locked in Baron and you get blocked off from Myst before you get the chance to explore it. Notably, you can reach Myst's armory at the beginning via a glitch and turn the normally squishy Rydia into a walking nuclear bomb.
    • Final Fantasy V provide several weapons and armors with different effects that provide various tactical advantages with the class system. Why go for raw power when there are weapons that enhance spells, deal instant death, have high critical hits, or deal status conditions in a game where they work often?
    • In Final Fantasy VIII, where better weapons are obtained through crafting. It is possible to get the characters' best weapons early on in the game... but finding the materials needed is a different story. Disc 1 Lionheart is achievable, but it involves losing a one-time rare card (you can get it back with a side-quest). Of course, neither leveling nor weapon upgrades are an important way of increasing your combat power.
    • A variation occurs in Final Fantasy X, where the strength of a weapon is determined entirely by which abilities/upgrades have been applied, and therefore the "best" weapon is situational depending on what enemies the player is facing in battle. Players will often find themselves making good use of early weapons with beneficial abilities (particularly elemental damage). Still, weapons tend to have more slots and stronger abilities as the game progresses.
    • Somewhat justified in Final Fantasy XII. The starting city, Dalmasca, is a center for commerce and trade, but it's also occupied by a foreign military power so the good stuff is kept out of the locals' hands. As the player progresses through the game's plot, the different gear they've discovered for sale elsewhere (which definitely follows this trope in its escalation of power) can usually be found for sale back in Dalmasca once that chapter of the plot is concluded.
      • Also pops up in the Monster Hunt subquest: tougher and tougher postings appear as the player progresses the main plot, giving the player a chance to pick up currently top-of-the-line gear (when the Hunt is first posted). Rewards for the Hunt range from gear that won't show up in shops until a bit later in the plot, to rare or even unique items. Players who want to stay on top or ahead of the Sorting Algorithm are thus encouraged to complete each Hunt as early as they can.
  • Kingdom Hearts titles give increasingly powerful weapons as the game goes on. However there are long stretches where it's best to use older Keyblades.
    • Kingdom Hearts II seems to try and reduce the gulf in effectiveness between older and newer Keyblades, by making the stat boosts smaller and giving each Keyblade a unique ability that makes it worthwhile. At least one is actually weaker physically than the starting keyblade, but it comes with the coveted MP Rage ability.
    • And 358/2 Days continues this trend somewhat - while the earliest weapons don't hold on to their effectiveness for long, mid-game weapons come with some very useful abilities, such as the Magic Bracer. The game's true Infinity +1 Sword is thus an ability that puts the stat buffs of all weapons roughly equal, allowing the player to pick a favored ability set.
    • It also zig-zags this with the healing items. Potions are always useful but later on, you have so much more health hi-potions undo more damage, and Mega Potions are always useful because they can restore the whole party's health. Ethers meanwhile NEVER get replaced with better versions, and mega-ethers are a little more rare than mega-potions and just as useful.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, while the characters' weapons follow this trope exactly, the best defensive items in the game can be purchased at a town no more than 1/8 way through the game. They are so expensive that you can't reasonably afford them until much later (unless you spend an eternity grinding), but they are there. Also, the consumable items you use through out the game do not appreciably change as you progress.
    • Healing items are often like this in games where the healing is percentage-based instead of straight numbers; they never go out of style because they're always just as effective as before. Similar to Tales Series, which also uses percentage-based healing.
  • Played with in Nostalgia (Red Entertainment), where London starts with almost no gear at all. As you progress in the game and reach major trading posts, new gear is unlocked in London, which may or may not be better than what you already have or can buy in other cities. Played straight with every other shop, though.
  • Phantasy Star, or at least the original game, averts this. As soon as you get to Motavia you can spend a while grinding to your heart's content and get the best armor available for most everyone.
    • Phantasy Star IV pokes fun at this trope with the city of Aiedo. It is, technically, the first place you start out in, and its main market (which of course is a world renowned center of commerce that even people on islands in the middle of nowhere come to shop in) sells low-end crap that the player would never bother spending money on because by the time you reach that point, you already have better equipment. However there's a second weapon and armor shop BEHIND the market that sells much better equipment. Each set of shops fulfills the trope in a different way (the former because you do start there, the latter because it's the second-closest town to the planet's last major dungeon).
  • Radiant Historia zig-zags on this. Equipment does get stronger in step with the plot, but very gradually. Each shop does generally have a few new pieces to offer, but they tend to only outright obsolete the oldest of equipment. You'll spend more money side-grading your Magic Knight to a lance that sacrifice some raw power for a magic boost, while leaving your Mighty Glacier with the older model that nonetheless has the greater physical attack.
  • In Rune Factory 3, if you have the gold you can purchase very powerful weapons early on. However, your Rune Points drain very quickly when you use them, making the weapons Awesome, yet Impractical. Your Item Crafting skill also combines with your weapon skill to determine what quality of weapons you can create.
  • In Sonic Chronicles, you can go several chapters without access to a shop, and then when you do find one it sells equipment worse than what you've already got.
  • Star Ocean: The Second Story also averts this in a minor way, as all the ingredients for the game's most powerful sword for the male lead (outside the Bonus Dungeon) are available for crafting approximately 2/5 the way through the plot. With careful skill building, luck, and some save/reloading you can have this weapon just before the plot really takes off. The other characters are not quite so lucky, and will need to wait until later, but can still make better weapons that the shops generally sell.
    • The PSP remake shuffled this Disc-One Nuke back into semi-proper order by rearranging when you could acquire the necessary skills to make it, playing it straight once more.
  • Also averted in Star Ocean 3; you can get quite good weapons in Airyglyph, much better than the general equipment level at that point, but they're very expensive and require severe grinding or Item Crafting.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, the city of Chesedonia is a relatively early destination in the game, and true to form, it sells fairly on-level weapons. However, there is also a vendor with overpoweringly powerful weapons available, albeit at ludicrous endgame price levels. The rest of the game upholds the trope reasonably well.
    • Later on in the game, when you'd have enough gald from reasonable grinding, the good stuff will all be unavailable due to the war, and as an added bonus, even the most insignificant items will be ridiculously expensive. When do you get to finally buy the equipment? When you're ready for them.
    • It can be subverted in a New Game Plus by bringing over the gobs of gald you obtained in your previous save. This is very useful for taking on the Nintendo Hard difficulty.
    • Tales of Symphonia does something similar. You can get access to the Infinity Minus One Weapons around the halfway point of the game. However, the city you buy them in, Luin, was destroyed earlier. So you need to shell out 343,500 gald to allow the weapon shop to sell the Infinity Minus One Joke Weapons. And even then, each one costs 40,000 gald. Technically, you can have the 4th best weapons in the game (below the Devil's Arms, Colosseum Weapons, and the non-sidequest Infinity Plus Ones, the former 2 requiring a bit of effort to get) half way through the game if you have the cash.
  • In all Tales games, the healing items never become worthless. Obviously we'll always use status-removing and reviving items, but as for healing items? They don't heal by a set amount; they heal via percentages. So you can buy lemon and pineapple gels (Which restore 60% of your HP and TP respectively) early in the game but at that point it's usually much more practical to just stock Apple and Lemon Gels, which only restore 30% because they're way cheaper. You might get Melange gels but they're pretty expensive. As for the special stuff like the items that work on the whole party, restore 60% of HP and TP, those you almost never get early in the game and are often rare and have to be found.
  • Although Valkyrie Profile 2 plays this straight for the most part, you can still find ridiculously overpriced and powerful weapons early on. The only thing is that you can't get the materials for those weapons yet, because the monsters that drop them don't appear until much later.
  • Wild ARMs 3 managed to avoid this problem by having your characters only ever have one weapon. Instead of buying new weapons, you pay to upgrade and customize your existing one. This model has been adopted for all the ARMs (guns) in the series, although regular weapons that appear still play it straight.
    • And then played entirely straight in Wild Arms 5. While the ARMs themselves don't change, the parts do, and these follow the trope to a T.

    Simulation Game 
  • Ace Combat also subverts this as normal missiles don't get stronger on later planes,note  while special weapons are equally effective or not both on early planes and lategame ones.
    • Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere plays with this, because it's set 20 Minutes into the Future - your starting plane is an upgraded variant of the Eurofighter Typhoon, which is treated as a mid- to late-game plane in every other game in the series, but by 2040 is woefully outdated. The game's usual balance goes for lower-tier planes being those slightly upgraded from common and existing aircraft (e.g. F-15s and F-16s with little more than canards attached and slightly larger tailplanes), while the higher-tiers are those that are more extensively modified from rarer planes (e.g. the XFA-36A, based on the sub-scale X-36 prototype) or completely fictional (e.g. the UI-4054 Aurora, based off rumors of an SR-71 replacement, or the X-49 Night Raven).
    • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War throws this all over the place as far as a plane's statistics are concerned, due to a much greater focus on the enemy Ace Pilots combined with primarily using a You Kill It, You Bought It method of unlocking planes, with most "balance" being based solely on the cost of the aircraft. A player in the Knight style will only unlock the F-4E Phantom II, usually a starting-game flying brick of a plane, just over halfway through the game - and probably won't actually buy it, because they'll have been saving up for the end-game-tier Su-37 "Terminator" that's been available for four missions by that point.
    • Ace Combat Infinity, being more multiplayer-centric than the others and putting distinction on the different types of planes, zig-zags this — weapon damage actually does increase on higher-tier planes, but how much it does is determined by separate air-to-air and air-to-ground stats on the plane itself (for standard missiles) and on the special weapon, and those can be increased both through upgrading the plane and its special weapons and by attaching parts, combined with the plane's overall flight profile usually being skewed one way or the other. So, for instance, a high-tier fighter like an F-22 or T-50 can one-shot almost anything else in the sky, but without a lot of upgrades and parts will only deal Scratch Damage to hardened bunkers, and can't stay in the air at low enough speeds to really hammer on that bunker to make up for the lower power; conversely, an Attacker will be able to clear large groups of ground targets with ease, but simply doesn't have the speed or maneuverability, either in the plane itself or its missiles, to keep up with enemy fighters. The player's own skill and how much money they've put into upgrading their plane makes a large difference as well; the starting F-4E Phantom II can wipe the floor with end-game planes of any kind if the player controlling it is good and has been flying long enough to tune it up with a lot of high-end parts.
  • Averted in Descent. The starting weapon gets upgraded (up to 4x) and is the most well-rounded and generally useful weapon all the way through the game. The other 4 weapons and the 5 types of missiles are only useful in specific situations.
  • In Freespace 2, the starting weapon, the Subach HL-7, deals little damage per shot. However, thanks to its almost non-existent energy-consumption, veteran pilots often prefer it to the later Prometheus S, as it allows them to divert most of their energy to shields and engines. In addition, earlier fighters remain competitive even as more advanced craft are introduced. For example, the Loki, one of the weaker starter ships in the game, becomes one of the most powerful vessels once the Kayser becomes available, as it is one of the few fighters that has a strong enough reactor to support prolonged fire with it.
    • The Vasudans' basic weapons is a licensed copy of the Subach, the Mekhu HL-7, and is overwhelmingly better in every way (faster firing, more damaging, and lower energy consumption) and an outright Game-Breaker in multiplayer, where it inexplicably gains a massive boost in firepower without reducing its overwhelming rate of fire.

    Stealth Based Game 
  • The Metal Gear series follows the basic template in giving you progressively stronger firearms throughout the games, but is a subversion in that just about every weapon you get retains its effectiveness until the end, each weapon being useful in different situations. The pistol you get in the first cutscene is just as effective for sneaking and incapacitating guards near the end of the game as it is from the start, and still packs enough stopping power to be useful in later firefights or boss fights that don't specifically require you to use something bigger.
    • To give an idea, the first Metal Gear Solid game gives you the offensive weapons in the following order: SOCOM Pistol, which is overall the most used and useful outside of situations that require something else because it's the only one that can be silenced -> FAMAS Assault Rifle, which is good for crowd-clearing during alerts or forced encounters -> Nikita Missile, primarily useful for puzzles but can also be used for certain bosses or other situations if you're crafty -> Stinger Missile, which has less versatility than the others, but is by far the most powerful and often the best (or only) option for boss fights.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater invert this where the single most useful and effective weapon in the game is the tranquilizer pistol, which you either start with or find very early in the game. While other weapons can be situationally useful, and some battles require specific weapons such as the Harrier fight in MGS2 requiring Stinger Missiles to take down, there's rarely a scenario where your most effective course of action isn't the silenced pistol that can take a guard down in one shot without triggering an alert and without the need to hide the body, especially since these games tend to reward you for non-lethally taking down foes.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots generally ignores this, with the most useful and/or customizable weapons all given to you or able to be acquired in the first act, but allows you to progressively upgrade your pistol and sniper rifle in terms of pure power - you are given or can find the extremely useful Operator and M14 EBR in the first act, can upgrade to the more powerful Mark 23 and railgun in Act 4, and then can buy or unlock the even better MGS3 M1911 and M82A2 after that.

    Survival Horror 
  • Averted in Dead Rising. The first part of the mall you enter contains a respawning Katana, a MAC-10, and an unlimited supply of Orange Juice (one of the best healing items). The second boss most will fight (the Monster Clown), drops a small chainsaw, the best weapon. And if the player starts the game and immediately runs to the Gun Store, he can stock up on firearms before the That One Boss owner spawns there. On the other hand, it will be difficult to get these items until almost midnight on the first day, since while you start there, you don't stay there. Also while the Katana and MAC-10 are fun weapons, they aren't really good ones - the katana especially has a long recovery time, very low durability, and is useless for crowd control because it only hits one zombie at a time, and the small chainsaw doesn't really become the best weapon until you grab three upgrade books for it, which is hard to do between the inventory requirements to hold them and the difficulty of finding those books in the first place. Orange juice also isn't the best healing item - wine, well-done steak and golden-brown pizza all heal more, but wine isn't available in unlimited numbers like orange juice until you reach Seon's in the north plaza, and steak and pizza never are.
  • Used with magic spells in Eternal Darkness, but averted in that the Functional Magic uses a three-word-grammar system. If you've got a large chunk of the Instant Runes, you don't technically need the rune translation codices or spell explanation scrolls you actually pick up in sequential order in the rest of the game; you can just "make sentences" and build all possible spells by the halfway point. You just won't know exactly what those spells actually do. And given that those spells are drawing power from one of four Eldritch Abominations, it's understandable that trying them out randomly wouldn't be too attractive.
  • The somewhat-obscure Nintendo title Ghoul School completely ignores the Algorithm. One of the deadliest weapons, the Spinal Tap, can be located in minutes. Though the weapons have different behaviors which ostensibly mean that each has uses in various contexts, several that are found well into the game have very little practical use. Normally, one of the first new weapons you find is the Towel, which is about 1.5 times as powerful as your starting weapon. In that same area, you'll find the Deweytron, which is long-range, but so weak that even normal monsters can absorb 50+ hits from it. The Deweytron has a cousin named the Digestaray, but it's just a less-powerful version of the Sandwich you may already be using. It goes back to the trope, at least, for the Gamma Gun, the last and most powerful weapon available.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • Averted in Dead Space. Not only are most of the weapons available before the half-way point of the game, but the starting weapon, the Plasma Cutter, is considered by many players to be the best and most useful one in the game, especially if you take the time to upgrade it to its full potential. It is very possible to go through an entire game with only the Cutter, and you even get an achievement for doing so. On top of this, using only one gun regardless of what it is makes the game easier, because enemies only drop ammo for guns you are carrying. If you carry the maximum of four guns, you'll have four guns that are perpetually low on ammo, versus carrying one gun that always has plenty of ammo. Since you'll probably have plenty of Cutter ammo already by the time you can actually get a second gun, you might as well just not even bother and stick with the Cutter.
  • Played with in Max Payne 2, which occasionally switches between the title character and one with a different inventory (Mona). Towards the end Max is knocked out and left for dead. Mona saves him, and when the player regains control of Max, he has pretty much every single high-end gun in the game.
  • [PROTOTYPE] subverts this. On one hand, you will indeed have little use for the Claws past early-to-mid-game. The Hammerfists' anti-"heavy" functionality is largely taken over by the Blade. The Blade, being the last offensive power acquired, is pretty much the best all-around offensive ability. Machine guns also come later than and outperform assault rifles. On the other, the Whipfist being the only mid-range power of Alex's means you'll still get mileage out of it even in late-game against strong-up-close Elite Mooks. If you like using Alex's normal attacks and throwing crap around then Musclemass will be a large bonus. You also get to use grenade and rocket launchers pretty early, before machine guns become commonplace.
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla is somewhat of an inversion. You do legitimately get better versions of most of your weapons (upgrading from a regular assault rifle to one that fires homing bullets, from a regular rocket launcher to one that fires multiple rounds, or from detonation packs to a rifle that shoots matter-eating nanomachines), but your trusty sledgehammer that's stuck in the first weapon slot never stops being useful in the right situation. It breaks through anything that can be broken and kills enemies in one swing just as good in the first hour as it does in the last.
  • Total Overdose inverts and upholds this trope at the same time. While the Standard FPS Guns appear in typical order of effectiveness, progress through the storyline, sidequests, and other 100% Completion tasks improve the effectiveness of your initial weapon, until your basic handgun is more powerful than any weapon you can collect.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Somewhat averted in the Fire Emblem series. Increasingly stronger weapons do become available as you progress, but since they break after so many uses, you'll generally want to save these weapons for the toughest enemies, so the beginner weapons still have value even late in the game. A minor irritation is that the basic Iron weapons become increasingly hard to find in shops later in the game, even though you still need them as much as ever.
    • Most Lords, and a few other characters, start with terrific (but breakable) weapons. Insofar as this trope is followed, it's that the powerful weapons become more available later on, and the powerful Sword of Plot Advancement typically comes late.
  • Averted in Freedom Fighters (2003). For the most part you'll be using the same assault rifle through the entire game, with more powerful but ammo-limited SMGs being dropped by the occasional Elite Mook. Although the very powerful Machine Gun isn't available till more than halfway through the game, the tremendous rarity of the enemies who hold them ensures that most players will likely switch back to the Assault rifle before too long unless they're particularly conservative with their ammo. Sniper Rifles and Rocket Launchers are only ever found in locations where they'd be immediately useful, and only with enough ammo to ensure that they can't be used much longer than that.
  • In Front Mission 3, because the Giant Robot parts have different balances of strengths instead of a straight progression from worse to better, it's quite feasible to use upgraded starting equipment in the endgame.
  • LucasArts game Gladius ends the game in the town of Caltha, which is in the Imperium. Depending on which campaign you're playing, you either begin the game in the Imperium or go there second, and will only return at the end of the game. Even though the player can't fight the high-end battles in Caltha, though, they can buy the items... if they could ever afford them! The prices are sky-high, and since you can't backtrack to the Imperium after you've left, there's really no way to get a hold on these prizes.
  • Averted in La Pucelle and the Disgaea series: There's only one shop in the entire game, and the level of the weapons/items available is partially determined by the player's Customer Rank. The more you shop, the better stuff they'll sell you.
  • In Sword of the Stars, while moving up the line of a weapon sub-family eg. UV lasers to X-ray lasers generally results to increased effectiveness, switching from one weapon sub-family to a later-acquired one eg. Particle Beams to Heavy Combat Lasers does not always lead to greater effectiveness.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Crackdown lets you take an unlimited supply of specialized vehicles out of the Agency garage - each of which, even in their lowest-powered form (they level up with you, Transformers-style) kicks the crap out of anything anyone else is driving around.
    • Averted in the same fashion with weapons. While your starting weapons are conventional and weak, acquiring more powerful guns is as easy as taking one from a dead gangster and returning to Agency HQ. There's nothing stopping the player from driving into a far more dangerous area than he should be in, killing one person and stealing their weapon, then promptly racing back to HQ at top speed where your superiors will provide you with infinite ammo and replacements.
  • Just Cause 2 wants to do this, starting Rico with a pistol and his grappling hook, but it quickly becomes clear that the grappling hook is one of the most hilariously powerful things in the game, and the tutorial mission often ends with Rico having yanked a minigun with infinite ammo off its mount and mowing down everything in sight. In the game proper, it isn't impossible for Rico to come across a heavy machine gun or assault rifle in a matter of ten minutes after the world opens up whether by stumbling across an ammo crate or taking off an enemy, and all of the weapons available to him are always capable of killing off Panau's numerous guards and soldiers. And civilians. Similarly, it is possible to end up stealing high-level, heavily armed vehicles that the army just leaves lying around, provided he can get close to it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted for both BattleTech and the Mechwarrior RPG based on it. Yes, there's some pretty impressive and pretty crazy tech down the line, but the basic 3025-era equipment that players start with, known as Level 1 tech (or the even less complex Primitive Equipment, sometimes affectionately known as "Level 0" tech), still has its uses even in a world full of advanced homing missiles and hyper-charged laser cannons. For one, Level 1 tech is reliable (weapons won't jam or explosively detonate themselves on a botched roll), usually fairly heat-efficient, and is always available. Additionally, a few other pieces of tech can increase the value of older weapons, most notably advanced missile munitions and the various types of specialty ammo for autocannons. The same also tends to apply for BattleMechs, as even an antiquated 'Mech like the VND-1R Vindicator can still get lucky and shoot the head off your 100-ton Clan-tech Super Prototype.
    • This also goes for RPG, as it is surprisingly realistic, as even a single bullet can still kill. This makes even weapons as old-fashioned as .38 Special revolvers into viable sidearm choices, and a good knife user can still put an opponent down with just a few clean hits.
  • Especially true in Rifts. Depending on where your campaign setting is and what classes your players choose, you can start of with many top-of-the-line military weapons from advanced alien technologies, or play as a powerful psychic or mage with no need of traditional weapons, or even a dragon or some other supernatural creature, all at level 1.
  • Generally this is also true in Shadowrun, Call of Cthulhu, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Traveller, Star Wars games for non-Force-users, Deadlands, Unknown Armies, and most games following Science Fiction, Modern Horror, or Historical tropes. Players often think this trope is ubiquitous in RPGS because of the overwhelming popularity of D&D. It fits these types of settings much better. Using Star Wars as an example, it's much cooler to think Han's blaster is just a really well-made heavy blaster and the reason it's so lethal is because Han Solo is the badass using it.
  • Averted in The World of Darkness, Old and New, for almost all non-magical weapons. A weapon's stats are given at the start of the game and are identical for all users. The skill of the person wielding the weapon makes all the difference in the world, and there's nothing stopping a brand new character from being amongst the best in the world at one or more forms of combat. Supernatural weapons created by the supernatural beings themselves may play it straight, depending on the game.