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This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman

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"I swear to God, they only call me when there's trouble at a dock. Or a river, or a lake, canal. A jetty."
The Deep, The Boys (2019)

Basically, a situation where a hero's relatively useless abilities turn out to be phenomenally useful because everything's contrived specifically in order to make them useful, even though realistically there's no reason to expect everything to be so convenient. Often involves Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard. May be used regularly or as a one-off as part of A Day in the Limelight. If the Aquaman character isn't seen on a regular basis anyway, the day-in-the-limelight version may involve a substantial stroke of luck in the events that lead up to Aquaman just happening to be around at the right time when there's an opportunity to use his powers.


Take Aquaman, for instance, since he mainly swims and talks to fish. But wait... the villain's doomsday machine is powered by telepathically controllable sea plankton? Wow, this guy's a great addition to the team!

The backlash against this trope may well be the biggest reason Only the Pure of Heart has started to fall out of favor. It doesn't help that so many examples of it treat the pure-of-heart character as the most vital team member of an otherwise robust cast, so you've got good guys who are worldlier, stronger, smarter, better at strategic thinking, etc., but all of them pale in importance next to the character who is... the most innocent. Because lessons.

Compare Plot Tailored to the Party, where the same contrivance is used to make the members of a team seem equally useful, rather than to make one specific hero look powerful on his own. Benevolent Architecture overlaps with either this or Plot Tailored to the Party.


If the character constantly uses a power to solve all his problems, but it generally makes sense (if you have a big sword, and fight monsters, it's not exactly contrived that a lot of monsters can be hurt by a big sword), see When All You Have Is a Hammer....

The exact opposite of this would be Kryptonite Is Everywhere, when it's a hero's weakness that is far more commonly available than it makes sense. Compare Highly Specific Counterplay, which only counters a specific thing or a small number of specific things; Heart Is an Awesome Power, when the power seems uselessly specific but turns out to be useful in many situations; and Lethal Joke Character, who might have only one or two strengths but is unmatched in those areas. Compare and contrast What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?, Handy Shortcoming.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Winry Rockwell's only real skill is working on automail, so she's only ever useful when Edward needs his automail limbs repaired, upgraded, or replaced. Fortunately for her, this happens numerous times throughout the series, ensuring she at least occasionally has a productive role in the story.
  • In KonoSuba, Aqua is overjoyed when she finds a quest on the guild job board that perfectly matches her skill set: Purifying a corrupted lake.
  • Pokémon: Ash's Pidove is the Unova regional bird, not used often, and isn't very smart. She also happens to be female, meaning that she's the only one on Ash's team not affected by Snivy's Attract. This allowed her to fight Snivy and let Ash catch her. Funnily enough, a regular Trainer probably would've used Pidove anyway due to the Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors.
  • In Tokyo Mew Mew, while Mew Lettuce's powers are less useful than those of the other Mews, she is useful on a few occasions. In one filler episode, she, being a bookworm, can resist falling asleep as a Chimera Anima made from a book reads aloud, and can counterattack. In another, when the Mews get bound in silk by a spider-like Chimera Anima, she can still use her castanets, which only require her fingers, and defeats the monster.
  • Season 2 of Darker Than Black has the character April, who in the first season used her ability (essentially to make it rain) primarily as support for her partner who can freeze things, gets a freak chance to use her ability offensively. She happens to fight a Fragile Speedster with Super Speed and none of the Required Secondary Powers, which made each raindrop impact with the force of a bullet. Like running through a shotgun blast of buckshot.
  • In SD Gundam Force, the Gundivers were only good for underwater missions, and as such were only useful whenever something important fell into the sea. By the final battle of the series they were upgraded with flight capabilities, becoming the Gunchoppers.
  • Submarimon from Digimon Adventure 02 can only used in water because he's... a submarine. However, he has flight abilities, but they were utilized only one time outside of water, during the Grand Finale.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Crow's Black-Winged Dragon (though hyped up a fair bit) is considered to be by far the weakest Signer Dragon by players in the actual game, because its only effect is being able to stop Burn damage - a strategy that is niche at best in real life, and it's not even especially good at it. However, nearly every time it appeared in the anime, the opponent played a deck that utilized Burn in some capacity, and the arc after he got it featured the card Speed World 2 (which had a Burn effect) in almost every Duel. Amusingly, cards with self-burn effects would have some synergy with this effect, but Crow doesn't use them!
  • One Piece:
    • In Thriller Bark, Perona ate the Hollow-Hollow Fruit, which allows her to generate ghosts that cause whoever touches them to become extremely negative and emotionally hollow. This power has been shown to bring down even the 'Monster Trio' of the Straw Hats, Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji. Usopp, on the other hand, is so pessimistic that the ghosts have no effect on him, and in fact contact causes Perona to become negative!
    • In the Dressrosa Arc, the situation of the Funk Brothers is pretty much tailor-made to make Kelly Funk's Jacket Jacket Fruit powers actually useful. Kelly can transform himself into full-body jacket that, when worn, allows him to take over the wearer's body, though that method makes it unlikely for him to take over someone who wasn't already willing. Bobby Funk is inexplicably strong and durable but has no fighting ability, and Kelly Funk is extremely aggressive but also relatively weak, with that combination allowing Kelly's ability to take over his brother's body to make them more formidable that way rather than simply fighting separately.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In part 3, Iggy is called in as the Sixth Ranger of the team late in the story. Iggy's Stand, The Fool, allows him to control sand. Normally, this would be a very situational power since it's useless when there's no sand around, but given how the protagonists' destination is in Egypt, he's much more powerful in the desert environment.
    • Part 5 has Squalo’s Stand, The Clash, a shark that can teleport from one body of liquid to another, sizeshifting to match. This would limit his effectiveness if he didn’t fight Bucceratti’s crew in Venice, where there are plenty of large bodies of water to unleash his full potential.
    • Part 6 has Survivor, which was said to be the weakest, least useful stand in existence by Dio and Pucci. Its power is to cause a weak electric impulse which stimulates the parts of the brain responsible for aggression, and allowing those affected to see their opponents' weak points, turning those affected into expert, relentless fighters who attack anyone they see. The reason why it's so useless is because it affects everyone in range indiscriminately, meaning that the user's enemies become expert fighters, while his allies turn against him. The only situation where it could be useful is if you have someone you really want dead, and they're trapped somewhere with other strong fighters who could probably kill your target if a big fight started. Like say, a maximum-security prison full of dangerous criminals...
    • Part 7 has a more literal example in Blackmore's Stand, Catch the Rainbow, which has enough versatility and power to be among the most dangerous Stands in the series... but only if it's raining out. If it isn't raining, it does nothing at all.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Yamcha is one of the weakest members of the Z-Fighters, so he retires from martial arts and becomes a professional baseball player in the timeskip between the original and Dragon Ball Z. When Champa challenges Universe 7 to a baseball match in episode 70 of Dragon Ball Super, guess who Universe 7's star player is?
    • During the Tournament of Power, the other Universes have fighters that rely on enormous stamina to fight. For a reason or the other, they end up dealing with Android 17 and Android 18, the infinite energy cyborgs with unlimited stamina.
  • In Cells at Work!, a series that personifies human cells, the chapter that introduces Eosinophil culminates with a fight against an Anisakis nematode, allowing her to show off her true skill— her Crippling Overspecialization means that while she's not very good at fighting bacteria or viruses, which are more common invaders to the human body, she makes short work of multi-cellular parasites. Seeing as how the series is based on medical science, this carries over to real life as well.
  • While Borma in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a decent all-rounder agent, his specialty is explosives, and he only gets one shot out of both seasons to show his stuff when he needs to disarm a bomb in 2nd Gig.
  • One-Punch Man:
    • Mumen Rider is a C-Class hero who has all the heroic drive in the world, but lacks any actual powers besides being in decent shape and owning a bicycle. Not peak physical shape, just on the level of a guy who bikes everywhere, and not a Cool Bike, a regular bike. He'd be stretching the definition to even qualify for Badass Normal status. But that sheer inexhaustible Heroic Resolve ultimately proves critical in Holding The Line against the Sea King, preventing him from massacring a shelter full of bystanders until Saitama can arrive.
    • King's only known skill is to be able to play many video games at a world-champion level. This doesn't see any use as a superhero—at least until Fubuki attempts to forcibly recruit all of the main characters into her gang unless they can beat them in a fight. Knowing that her group have no chance in an actual brawl against Saitama, King, Bang and Genos, she makes it a video-game fight, banking on the fact that she has a professional gamer in her squad. Saitama has played the game and could beat a few of his adversaries but is ultimately overcome. Most of the others have never touched a video game in their lives and, despite their colossal powers, are quickly defeated. Up steps King, who proceeds to demolish all of Hellish Blizzard's other goons - including the pro - all by himself and without breaking a sweat. This comes up again in an OVA, when King demolishes Garou in a VR fighting game simulation, solidifying his legendary status as the World's Strongest Man.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, Komugi has the power to be extremely good at gungi, a fictional chess-like board game, and to improve further every time she faces a tough opponent. This proves to be an essential power when Meruem, the Chimera Ant King, takes over her country and challenges the best board gamers in the country to face him. He quickly beats the others, but the fact that he cannot beat Komugi, no matter how hard he tries or how many games he plays, causes him to focus exclusively on playing gungi with Komugi. This results in Meruem being distracted for days, possibly weeks, and allows the heroes to stand a fighting chance against Meruem and his overwhelming power and intellect.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Froppy is a hero with all the powers of a frog. While she has the ability to jump and use a long tongue, she is at her best in the water. When the Academy was attacked by a horde of villains, she was teleported into pool designed to replicate underwater rescue situations. Deku lampshaded this trope, pointing out that if the villains knew what Froppy's powers were they would've teleported her somewhere without water. Later, when the students are seeking internships, Froppy went to work with the coast guard to make the best of her aquatic abilities. The other coast guard heroes also have water-related quirks, indicating that the Aquamen of this world go out and find jobs that suit their aquatic abilities.
    • Koda's quirk is the ability to talk to and control animals. While there are some places where that would be quite useful, its usefulness is severely limited in a heavily urbanized setting with minimal animals present, like in urban Japan where most of the series takes place.
  • Subverted in Full Metal Panic!. When Mithril initially gets the mission to infiltrate a Japanese highschool to covertly monitor and protect a seemingly Ordinary High-School Student, they quickly remember that one of their soldiers is a sixteen-year-old Japanese boy and move to exploit this convenience immediately. So immediately, in fact, that they forget just what sort of background produces a sixteen-year old combat savant and don't realize how absolutely unsuitable he is for the mission until he comes back from his first day of school dragging the folding chair Kaname had handcuffed him to.
  • Black Clover: Although Dark Magic is far from being useless, it's slow to cast and Yami usually uses it more as a supplement for his swordsmanship. However, because the attribute is the polar opposite of light, it becomes highly effective when he fights against Licht, with his magic absorbing his spells by creating small black holes. It's also highly effective against devils due to its power to affect the underworld. His magic is very useful in the fight against Zagred, whose Word Soul Magic can't block it, and when the Black Bulls fight Dante.

  • Comedian Dara O'Briain had a bit about various actors who'd played the Milky Bar kid (one of whom actually was in the audience, or so they say). He asked the audience what superpower a hypothetical Milky Bar kid superhero might possess, to which they provided a series of bizarre answers such as "super-taste", "the ability to turn people into chocolate", etc. O'Briain promptly mused that, if the hypothetical superhero possessed such a superpower, each episode of the hypothetical TV series would consist of this (and then provided an example of how absurd a crime for which "super-taste" would be necessary to solve it would be).

    Comic Books 
  • All-Star Comics: In the issue in which Dr. Mid-Nite joins the Justice Society of America the villain orchestrating everything runs into a pitch dark building and the other JSA members stand back to have Mid-Nite run in and fight him, since he can see in the dark.
  • Aquaman, of course, was notorious for such convenient obstacles, both as a Plot Tailored to the Party as part of a team, and alone in his Filmation cartoon (down to Aquaman actually becoming an astronaut because they needed to explore a water planet). Modern authors usually subvert this however, pointing out that he's at least a Badass Normal on dry land, having him use his additional minor powers or a skillful application of his Required Secondary Powers.
    • Specifically, they've taken his super-tough "ability to survive crushing ocean depths" and super-strong "ability to swim really fast" and used them a lot more; as someone noted in his "Heart Is an Awesome Power" entry, punching people in the face at five hundred atmospheres or more puts him in the same tier as Superman - we're talking being able to move as freely as you do on land at ocean depths where the water would crush a submarine like a soda can. Needless to say, if that guy were to punch you in the face while not under the weight of tons of water, it would leave you wondering how you ended up on the moon so fast. Throw in a changing roster of magical abilities and a Made of Indestructium trident that even Darkseid will feel the stab of for good measure. Also, the 'talk to fish' bit includes Kaiju that live in water but are perfectly capable of fighting on land, so basically... imagine Godzilla and Cthulhu were each part of a whole species, and he's on first-name basis with every last one of both. Also, as the king of Atlantis, if he needed backup, he could call on the whole Atlantean army. Fans of the comics don't consider him a joke at all. However, there's still a Running Gag in the comics of him being seen as a joke.
    • This trope is parodied in Shadowpact where, after having his magical trident thrown into the middle of the Pacific Ocean by The Spectre, Blue Devil reappears with it to fight the unleashed Seven Deadly Sins. Someone asks him how he got it back, and there's a one panel flashback of Aquaman retrieving it for him before going off to deal with his own problems. Instead of admitting he needed Aquaman's help, he just says "I'd rather not talk about it" and keeps going.
    • His telepathy is also shown to have some limited degree of usefulness with non-marine species, Depending on the Writer. Some writers go to extremes by combining "can summon and control sea creatures" with "every living thing on Earth has evolved from sea life" to giving him power over more or less everything. Usually this was presented as near-total control over sea life and the ability to stun or confuse humans or other animals; Aquaman was able to induce a seizure in the Martian speedster Züm in an early issue of Morrison's JLA by attacking the parts of his Martian brain that had evolved from sea creatures.
    • In another issue of JLA, as part of the World War III storyline kickoff, Mageddon initiated a riot at a super villain lockdown and the Justice League were sent in to contain it since the warden and all guards had gone cuckoo as well. While the rest of the team was handling things elsewhere in the building, Aquaman all by his lonesome busted into a room filled with about fifty bad guys with light-based abilities. He just stared them down and said, "Most of your powers are dependent on light. My eyes are adapted to see at six thousand fathoms. Think about it."
    • Aquaman's friendship with sea creatures helps him with his battle with Namor. You could say he Dropped A Whale On Him.
      Aquaman: That's your weakness, Namor. You're too noble to cheat.
    • In the JLA/Avengers crossover, Aquaman is able to shut down a whole group of Marvel Atlanteans with his telepathy; he comments that their minds are more complex than what he usually uses it on, and Namor (himself half-Atlantean) says that the telepathy gave him a pounding headache. Earlier in the series, Aquaman is being beaten up by She-Hulk... then realizes he doesn't need to beat her and succeeds in gaining one of the MacGuffins which is underwater. Later that issue he scatters a group of the strongest Avengers who are beating up Superman (including She-Hulk) by summoning a giant sea-monster while in the Savage Land.
    • Perhaps Aquaman's most impressive showing is in the Earth 2 graphic novel. When evil counterparts of the Justice League from a parallel universe invade Washington DC, Aquaman shows up to stop them — with the entire Atlantean navy backing him up.
    • On the other hand, the original Aqualad knew his limits at times in The New Teen Titans. When Robin wanted him to join the team on an intergalactic mission, Aqualad declined, saying that his abilities were of little use in outer space.
    • However, in the original Teen Titans books, this was played straight. Bob Haney clearly had a hard time figuring out how to make Aqualad seem useful, so he'd often throw in contrived water-based set pieces to give him something to do (such as a swimming pool in issue #4, a high dive tank in #6, and sewers in #8). He was Put on a Bus and replaced by Speedy in issue #19, and after eventually rejoining the team, he ended up resigning in issue #51 precisely because he'd developed an inferiority complex over his perceived uselessness.
  • Subverted in New Super-Man. The Justice League of China is made up of imitations of the American heroes such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman of China, created by Dr. Omen to have similar powers. When investigating a scientist, the man panics and sends out an enormous xiangliu sea serpent.
    Superman of China: A giant sea monster! Shouldn't we call the Aquaman of China?!
    Wonder Woman of China: There is no Aquaman of China.
    Batman of China: Dr. Omen didn't see the point.
  • Chew involves a detective who gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. Fortunately, he works for the FDA, and thus encounters a lot of food-related crimes. And since he can eat things besides food, he's quite useful to other agencies too.
  • The comic X-Men Legacy was a particularly egregious abuser of this trope for a stretch of issues: It seemed like every single crisis could only be solved by two peoples' powers at once, or one person's power with another person's knowledge. Good thing Rogue's power is to absorb the powers, skills, and attributes of anyone she touches. It got to seem like less of a team than a bank of power donors and one person who ever actually does anything, blurring the line between this trope and Plot Tailored to the Party... This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman Tailored to the Party?
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Before she got her incredibly versatile force fields, the Invisible Woman (then Invisible Girl) was often subject to this because her only power was Invisibility, so the team was put into situations where stealth was required so her power could come off as being useful.
    • While Namor the Submariner from their Rogues Gallery had some useful abilities on land (flight and super strength), he generally needed to spend some time in the water to keep them optimal. In one early comic where Doctor Doom teamed up with him to try to eliminate the Fantastic Four, only to betray him along with them (since Doctor Doom wanted no super-powered competition from the Submariner either), Namor was only able to power up enough to pull everyone's fat out of the fire because the Fantastic Four happened to have a big tank of water handy in their building for him.
  • As blogger Chris Sims points out (with a reference to Knight Boat, no less), DC's annual Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer comic ran on this trope.
  • In his first appearance in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel), Barbecue the firefighter is disdained by Shipwreck, who doesn't see the point in a combat unit having a fireman attached to it. Shortly afterward, Barbecue justifies his position with the team by ably dealing with several fires caused by a Cobra surprise attack.
  • The number of villains who think that it's a good idea to put Mister Miracle in some elaborate deathtrap is pretty astonishing, given that his primary selling point is being the universe's greatest escape artist. You'd think sooner or later someone would come up with a plan that did not involve confining him in something he was sure to escape from.
  • In an issue of My Little Pony: Friends Forever Thestra is a pony with a unique and highly unusual (even for MLP standards) ability of making skin and muscles invisible. This skill turns out to be perfect and extremely convenient to fight a giant flying orca made entirely of mirrors that showed up out of nowhere. Thanks to this encounter, Thestra is convinced that her talent can be useful, though it ended up being a Broken Aesop - that level of contrivance being required to make it seem useful is Exhibit A for the idea of it being useless. It's been pointed out by fans that it would be of great use in medicine.
  • Before he was given his signature "all the powers of Superman but only one at a time" deal, Ultra Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes only had the power of "Penetra-Vision" (hee), which worked the same as Superman's "vision" powers (Eye Beams, X-Ray Vision, telescopic/microscopic vision, etc), except that unlike Superman, his vision could penetrate lead. Cue Ultra Boy being confronted by people firing lead bullets, falling lead-lined boulders, and killer robots made of lead. Even after, this is how he dodges the Legion's "no two people with the same power" clause; technically, his only unique power is being able to see through lead.
  • The anti-hero Moon Knight is at full power during the full moon, due to his powers having come from a moon god. Usually, Depending on the Writer it makes him slightly below, the same level, or slightly above Captain America. During his stint as a West Coast Avenger, they entered a pocket dimension to fight a villain, but he easily repelled both Iron Man and Wonder Man together. Then the night fell, revealing several thousand full moons. Cue Moon Knight going One-Winged Angel and beating the tar out of the villain.
  • An arc of Mega Man dealt with an EMP disabling most of the world's technology, including the friendlier Robot Masters and Mega Man himself. This meant that Plant Man, mostly seen as one of the lamer Robot Masters due to his flower motif and weak weaponry, got A Day in the Limelight: it turns out he actually really is part plant, and therefore part-organic, making him resistant to the EMP.
  • "And There Shall Come... A Champion!", the issue of Marvel Two-In-One that introduced the Champion of the Universe, does this for The Thing. In his quest to face the World's Strongest Man, the Champion refuses to fight anyone who cannot match him as in the ring as a boxer. As it turns out, all the other really strong characters out there lack the discipline to make decent boxers (The Hulk, Wonder Man, Doc Samson, Sub-Mariner), don't have the raw durability or determination to slug it out (Colossus, Sasquatch), or have weaknesses preventing them from boxing fairly (Thor). This leaves Ben Grimm, who has long been established as an experienced boxer who refuses to give up, as the only character in his weight class capable of fighting the Champion and going the distance long enough to convince the guy to back off.
  • Cypher, of The New Mutants, had his powers being to know any language. Nowadays, he's a big Heart Is an Awesome Power recipient, due to the broadness of "language" being extrapolated into more versatile tricks, but the writers of the original run favored this trope much more heavily: every other issue would have some visit to a foreign country or alien conqueror or long-lost hidden code for him to unravel. What made this one conspicuous was that pretty much every other superhero comic treats language barriers as a nonissue. Any other story would just casually reveal that the hero is bilingual, use Translator Microbes, or show Aliens Speaking English, which made it seem like it was just the New Mutants who had the bad luck to keep running into monolinguals.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one The Far Side comic, the town's karate club are excited to see a group of plank-shaped and wall-shaped aliens invading Earth.

    Fan Works 
  • In Unleash the Fury of the Djinn, Lunpa is surrounded by a type of energy field making all the protagonists' Psynergy inaccessible to them. Since their Djinn's innate unleashes aren't based in Psynergy, they're the only creatures who stand a chance against Lunpa's guards and defenses. There's a second layer of this trope as well: Rime, a Mercury Djinni whose only power is sealing Psynergy, feels incredibly useless next to Djinn whose powers let them do damage, and spends most of the story just following everyone else as they sneak through the town, either just kicking things or creating diversions... until they run into magical suits of armor sustained by Psynergy. The next time a Djinni finds him, he's waging a one-Djinni No-Holds-Barred Beatdown against them, hundreds of dispelled suits of armor lying in pieces on the floor, filling the hallway.
    A totally new concept was slowly growing in the Mercury Djinni's mind. For the first time in centuries, he was actually the most dangerous fighter in the battle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • For the cliffhangers in The Master Mystery, Harry Houdini constantly ended up imprisoned, handcuffed, tied up, locked in a crate thrown into the ocean, or otherwise captured in ways that his escape artist skills fit perfectly.
  • Though not superpower related, the murder case in Legally Blonde seems tailor made just so that Elle could help win it. What comes in handy during the proceedings isn't her law training, or her studying and work at Harvard Law, but the fact that she's sorority sisters with the defendant, and knows fashion.
  • Parodied in the superhero comedy Mystery Men, in which the "Invisible Boy" can become invisible only when absolutely nobody is looking at him, including himself. After spending most of the movie without finding any use for his powers, he becomes invisible to disable an automated security system which cannot detect him in his invisible state.
  • Fred Astaire's gambler character in Swing Time runs into an inordinate amount of problems best solved by gambling and/or dancing.
  • Not superpower-related, but improbably convenient, is the climax to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The organization has a huge (like the size of Lake Huron) underground water tank and probably spends at least 80% of its annual budget on submarines. And not the big, slow-moving submarines that real navies use; we're talking about two-seat submarines that have the speed and maneuverability of fighter jets because they're imported from Naboo. And then it just so happens that Cobra's main base of operations is underwater.
  • Team America: World Police parodied this trope with Gary's acting talents, to the point where Da Chief says that sending his agents off to an aerial dogfight without an actor was like lambs to the slaughter.
  • Graham's son in the M. Night Shyamalan film Signs is saved from the aliens' poison gas by his super asthma.
  • Sky High (2005): At the end, all the kids with "lame" powers such as melting, glowing, and turning into a guinea pig work together to thwart the villain and save their parents.
  • In Bloodshot, in a group of cybernetically-enhanced ex-soldiers whose abilities include various artificial limbs, KT's only enhancement is a respirator that controls her breathing. While the only clear advantage this gives her over a regular soldier is that she can tolerate otherwise potentially toxic environments, this allows her to force Harting's staff to evacuate while she destroys his databases using gas grenades in the final confrontation.
  • Zoolander is a comedy thriller that revolves around male modeling. At one point, the main characters meet up with a mysterious informant (played by David Duchovny) who reveals that throughout history male models have been brainwashed into becoming assassins. Why male models? They are always in peak physical condition, can gain entry to the most secure places in the world (i.e. VIP exclusive parties) and most importantly have low intelligence and tend to do as they are told. All characteristics of the perfect assassin.note 
  • Richard B. Riddick in Pitch Black had escaped a life sentence from a prison where he was told he'd never see the light of day. So it made sense that he had his eyes surgically altered to see in the dark. Fortunately for him, the ship transporting him after he escaped crashed on a planet that happened to plunge into darkness during an extended eclipse. Coincidentally, this was the only time light-phobic monsters swarmed from underground caves to feed. Guess who leads the survivors to safety?
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Sea of Monsters begins to feel like at points with Percy. Have to escape from cages in the bottom of a ship? Percy can control the sea to rock the boat until the literal deus ex plot device falls within reach. Percy needs to escape his archnemesis and reach the lifeboat his friends have stolen? Call up a wave and start surfing that bad boy (and also use it to fling the villain into the ocean when he attempts to follow him). Gotta save yourself and your friends as well as a reluctant ally after you've all been swallowed by a sea monster? Take control over the water inside the monster's stomach until it belches you back to the surface again. There's rarely a problem that gets solved in the film by Percy, up until the final boss battle that doesn't somehow require him to use his mystical water powers.
  • James Bond: The eponymous character always seems to find himself in a situation that requires the use of whatever gadgets Q has presciently seen fit to supply him with. The early movies tended to give him rather generic items that could be used for any number of things (like a briefcase that contains some concealed weapons and a stash of bribe money), and some films had Q specifically join him in the field to provide relevant equipment (a mini-helicopter, a car that can travel underwater) but as the series went on, the tools got more and more unusual and specific-purpose, but still somehow managed to be just what he ended up needing (an explosive pen, a jacket that can produce a giant inflated sphere, etc.). The films reverted back to a limited supply of general-purpose tools in the Daniel Craig era.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Suicide Squad. Killer Croc is really good at swimming and fighting underwater. Unfortunately, almost all of the mission takes place on dry land. However, during the battle against the Enchantress's brother, the team needs an explosive device to be detonated in an underwater tunnel to blow up the brother. Killer Croc actually insists on participating in this task because he realizes how useful he will be during it. This is spoofed in The LEGO Batman Movie where Killer Croc's only role in the Action Prologue is to press a single bomb's button underwater, after which he cheers: "I did something!"
    • Aquaman: While all Atlanteans have most of Arthur's powers, he is the only one who can speak to fish. He first uses this to hide himself and Mera inside a whale's mouth, and later is able to talk down the gigantic sea monster guarding Atlan's trident. Speaking of Atlan, he was the original king of Atlantis, and he had this power as well. His trident amplifies it so that its wielder can control all the creatures of the ocean at once.

  • The Poseidon Adventure: As the survivors try to reach rescue, there's a need to get a rope across a submerged passageway that's too long to swim across. Oh, wait: as a young woman, Belle was a champion swimmer who once crossed the English Channel. On the other hand, that was when she was young, and she's years out of practice and out of shape. She succeeds in getting the rope across, but the effort kills her.
  • Subverted in the Sidekicks series with Exact Change Kid. Just when they actually need exact change for a bus ride to the villain's lair, it turns out he left his utility belt home (with all his change) and they have to go on foot.
  • Journey to the West:
    • Xuanzang can sit perfectly still for up to three years and he's very proud of this fact. It only came in handy that one time the group was challenged to a meditation duel on their journey.
    • Played straight with Sha Wujing a.k.a. Sandy, who is a river demon and the party's best swimmer, so he gets called on to fight water-based foes, which is rare (and even then, Wukong is often the one who winds up finding a solution to their problem)
  • Alexey Pekhov's Peresmeshnik (Mockingbird). The protagonist's special ability is to copy any other person's voice, which, by the measures of his world, is a weak and useless superability (most of nobility there can do much stronger things). This proves useful as he fights the Final Boss, though.
  • The Ultra Violets's Cheri has the ability to talk to animals and superhuman math skills. Where would the latter come in handy, you might ask? A poker game.
  • The main character of The Caster Chronicles, Ethan Wate, is a Wayward - a mortal whose destiny is essentially intertwined with that of a specific Caster. Waywards are also essentially a guide or compass for their Caster, and instinctively know where they need to go and what they need to do, especially when Casters are about as lost as the next person in the room. Needless to say, this only ever comes in handy when all other options have been exhausted. Comes with plenty of Lampshade Hanging that explicitly references Aquaman and his usually useless powers.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Frodo isn't the smartest, strongest or bravest of his companions and is constantly overshadowed even by his fellow hobbits. However, his inherent purity and tenacity make the most capable person to carry the ring. While he eventually fails, it's noted that no other person could carry it as far as he did.
    • This could also be said of Hobbits in general - their overall contentment/lack of ambition is why the One Ring is less able to affect them than other races.
  • In the Xanth series, no matter how obscure or specialized a main character's magic talent is, you can bet they'll get a chance to use it to save the day. For example, in The Source of Magic a character whose magic talent was turning boulders into pebbles was able to help his group escape a cave-in by shrinking the boulders. This is often justified. In many cases, a character trying to solve puzzles to gain entrance to Good Magician Humphrey's castle will have to solve puzzles designed specifically to require a creative use of their magic talent. Other times, a character will be sought out to go on a quest specifically for his/her magic talent, which will have been foretold by Humphrey to be vital for the quest. However, sometimes it just kind of happens.
  • In Don't Call Me Ishmael!, the debate team, whose star debater unfortunately isn't there, have to argue that fantasy and science-fiction are relevant in Real Life. They are convinced they have already lost, when suddenly the resident geek Bill, who's usually The Quiet One, launches into a passionate speech full of geeky analogies about why fantasy and science-fiction do matter and are important to many people, providing them with lots of arguments.
  • In Worm, Khepri dismissed the Changer heroes as useless during the final battle with Scion. During the last stretch, she realized the best chance to win was by reminding Scion of Eden's death, a perfect role for the Changers.
  • Downplayed example in Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary. The unicorn horn the heroes need to steal is protected by alert centaur guards, a maze of invisible walls, a mountain troll, and magic that afflicts any would-be thief with crippling guilt. Seth has just been turned into a shadow charmer. Among other powers, shadow charmers turn invisible in dim light, can see the invisible, can communicate with and easily befriend dark creatures, and are immune to magic that affects emotions.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Touma Kamijou is an odd example in that Imagine Breaker is useless for fighting anything that is not magic or an esper ability. True to Aquaman form, though, he lives in an environment where he's surrounded by espers and gets harassed by magic users. As some viewers note, he only ends up looking good at street combat because his opponents aren't very good at it either. Whenever he goes up against someone who has martial arts training, they tend to wipe the floor with him. It's eventually revealed that this was deliberately invoked by Aleister Crowley. Aleister founded Academy City as a city of espers specifically to draw in the user of Imagine Breaker.
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and all its derivatives- nobody liked Rudolph until his biologically-improbable bioluminecent nose was suddenly exactly what was needed to save Christmas.
  • Marasi in Wax and Wayne is a Pulser, and has the power to create bubbles of time that move slower than the world around her. She thinks it's a useless power at first, fit only for shorter wait times at the theater, especially compared to Wax flying and shooting metal like bullets, or Wayne's Healing Factor. Her uncle wanted her to keep her powers a secret, partially because he thinks they're useless, and partially because it's embarrassing that his legitimate daughter Steris isn't an Allomancer and his bastard daughter Marasi is. Marasi's powers are instrumental in taking down Miles Hundredlives, whose Healing Factor negates any damage. After the crew takes down all of his Mooks, Marasi traps Miles in a time bubble long enough for the police to arrive and arrest him.
  • Most witches on the Discworld cure the sick by means of Headology, tricking their patients into thinking they're using magic when it's really just belief and simple cures, such as giving sugar water placebos as "magic potions" and telling someone to take regular exercise by walking to a distant pool and throwing in pebbles to placate water nymphs. Magrat is an herbalist who meticulously prepares remedies, and is frustrated when senior witches like Granny Weatherwax get better results just by handing patients colored water and tell them they're getting better. For several books, Magrat's reliance on herbs and artifacts is mocked by her seniors, until Lords and Ladies, when Diamanda Tockley is comatose. Granny instantly goes to Magrat because she knows that even though Granny is the better witch, Magrat is the better doctor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied on 30 Rock episode "I Heart Connecticut", with the fictional NBC show "Who Nose?" about an investigative reporter who must compensate for a lack of smell.
    Reporter: You underestimated me, Congressman, because I can’t smell. But you made one mistake: You let me see the documents.
  • It seemed that every villain in Airwolf had access to a missile-launching helicopter(s), which allows the hero to fight them with his helicopter.
  • Comically subverted in the pilot episode of Arrested Development. Buster's Establishing Character Moment tells us that he has graduate degrees in a number of apparently useless subjects, including cartography, so when his family attempts to escape the police by boat, they look to him to decipher the map. Unfortunately, he thinks the blue parts are land.
  • In Auction Kings, some of the experts have very narrow specialties, but Paul is always glad to know them when that one piece comes in that is in that specialty.
  • While all versions have had this to some extent, Batman (1966) cranked it up to eleven with the specifically useful things Batman has in his utility belt at any given time. Bat Shark Repellent is a perfect example. Admittedly that was actually on the aquatic landing helicopter rather than his own utility belt but the point still stands.
  • The Boys (2019): Discussed. Deep complains that The Seven only send him in for things in or around water. It turns out that the rest think he's pathetic and a joke, to his annoyance. When it finally is his job to stop the the Boys while they are on a boat he screws it up by grandstanding in the way on a whale rather than simply overturning their boat. The result is one very dead whale.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • The season six finale has the team working to expose Commissioner Kelly for using a Stingray to illegally spy on the people of New York City. In order to expose him, they plan on staging a kidnapping of a high-ranking NYPD official and planting a bug on Kelly in order to record him ordering the deployment of the Stingray. The only catch is that the kidnap victim needs to be someone who is simultaneously high-ranking enough that Kelly would deploy the Stingray, but also someone whose absence would not impair the ability of the NYPD to function. CJ just so happens to fit that bill perfectly.
    • In a later Season 7 episode, Jake needs to know the name of a particular hot dog vendor in order to catch an assassin and save Holt. Unfortunately, they know literally nothing about the guy other than that he's a hot dog vendor and that he keeps his cart on a particular street corner. So their only hope is to find someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of every hot dog cart in New York City. Enter: Hitchcock and Scully.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander got in a fantastic shot on Glory using a wrecking ball, shortly after being derided for being a construction worker.
  • Almost every episode of Community has Jeff use his lawyer skills (usually in the form of the 'Winger Speech') to save the day.
  • Each episode of the 1970s live-action Saturday-morning show Electra Woman and Dyna Girl would begin with the titular heroines being given a newly developed module for their wrist "Electro-comps," giving them a new (and sometimes seemingly useless) power. Later in the episode, the duo would inevitably encounter a villain whose evil plot can only be thwarted by an imaginative use of the new power...which would then never be mentioned again in subsequent episodes.
  • In Good Omens (2019) (and the original book), Newt's Walking Techbane "ability" ends up preventing World War III. When he finally reveals his curse to Anathema, she realizes what must be done and tells him to "fix" the computer programmed to launch the nukes all over the world. A few keystrokes later (apparently, he tries to defragment the drive), the whole system shuts down.
  • Kamen Rider Fourze's powers revolve around using Astro Switches to have attachments on his four limbs, with each of those 40 Switches having different uses. At one point after another, each of those Switches (as ridiculous as some of them may be) found some explicit use during the course of the show. An egregious example, however, is when the Musca Zodiarts is treated by everyone as unstoppable unless Fourze uses the Net Switch, which just happens to have been confiscated by a teacher.
  • Knight Rider remake.
    • The show seems to take this backward, in that due to how incompetent most of the characters are other than KITT, the plot always seems contrived to happen in basements and otherwise deep inside buildings more than you would think.
    • Considering that in the pilot episode KITT smashes right through a wall to rescue Michael, adopting basements and elevated floors as hideouts may be savvy on the villains' part.
  • Lost:
    • Charlie possesses musical abilities, but is generally useless to the other survivors. However, during the season 3 finale the only way to turn off the jamming equipment set up by the Others is with a number combination, which happens to be the tune to "Good Vibrations."
    • Likewise, the otherwise useless Shannon pulls her weight with her ability to speak French, when French transmissions, maps and documents turn up.
    • Juliet and Bernard were, respectively, a fertility specialist and a dentist. These skills came in handy when somebody at camp needed their appendix removed - that somebody just so happened to be Jack, who would have performed the procedure himself if it was anybody else. Bernard's line of work gave him knowledge of anesthesia, and Juliet's medical background, although not specific to surgery, gave her the necessary skills to perform the procedure without incident.
  • In teen spy drama series M.I. High every time the agents are given a new gadget a scenario will always occur in that very episode where the gadget is needed, regardless of how unlikely the scenario is.
  • Garry, the Butt-Monkey of Parks and Recreation, is known as a screw-up, and while he can't handle the big, flashy, complicated jobs, he not only handles but rocks at all the small, everyday stuff, like filing, licking envelopes and sending letters, and taking phone calls. Not only that, he's downright chipper about doing it, not even minding if a screw-up requires him to start the whole long, boring process over again. As Ben points out, Garry can't do much, but the things he can do are all things an office needs to have happen in order to keep the place functioning so the big, flashy, complicated jobs can go off without small things getting in the way. Therefore, there are times when Garry's help is absolutely necessary.
    Ben: Oh, you wanna photocopy? You wanna do all the mindless work? Yeah, didn't think so. [over intercom] Get me Garry Gergich.
  • On Psych, Gus's expertise in prescription drugs from his actual job as a pharmaceutical salesman comes up a lot more than you'd expect during his investigations. Gus also uses his "Super Sniffer" to uncover crucial evidence and can open safes.
  • Subverted in Robin Hood with the series' Load Kate. Her occupation is that of a potter, but despite introducing an entire shelf full of hideous-looking pots, there never comes a time when she's given the opportunity to throw them at anyone (or in fact, when her ability to shape clay comes in handy at any point). Instead the writers give her arbitrary moments of usefulness that could have been just as easily achieved by any one of her fellow male outlaws, most of which involved Kate finding the episode's MacGuffin.
  • Dr. Johnson from Scrubs occasionally got his moment in the sun as a dermatologist (one had him confirm a melanoma diagnosis), which annoyed the shit out of Dr. Cox, who considered it a mostly useless specialty. Whether it is or not, dermatology is one of the highest-paid medical specialties in the U.S.; dermatologists make almost $400,000 a year.
  • In the pilot for an Aquaman series from the creators of Smallville, the villain had A.C. at her mercy, cornering him on land while he's dry (he has to be wet to use his strength). So she knocks him out and puts him on a boat and drags him out to sea so that he can fight and defeat her. Of course, he's inside the boat, so he still isn't strong yet. Fortunately there's a pitcher full of plain tap water lying around in the cabin for some reason for him to dump over his own head. Also played completely straight in the Smallville episode "Justice", where the Justice League (Clark/Superman, Green Arrow, Cyborg, Impulse/Flash, Aquaman) attacks a LuthorCorp facility that just so happens to be by the docks.
  • Can happen occasionally on Stargate SG-1.
    • Dr. Elizabeth Weir is assigned as the new commander of the Stargate Program based apparently on her expertise as a diplomat. Everyone (especially her) questions how this qualifies her to run the Stargate Program, which is primarily a military operation. In the Season Eight premier "New Order", she gets to use her skills during a negotiation with the Goa'uld, before leaving to head the Atlantis expedition. It's explained that the whole point of putting a civilian in charge is that the Stargate program shouldn't be a military operation, and since a large part of it involves meeting and trading with other civilisations a diplomat is the perfect person for the job. If anything her appointment inverted this trope, since everyone involved previously lacked this obviously necessary expertise and frequently got in trouble as a result.
    • The Asgard, during their war with the Replicators, tend to request the help of Earth, mainly due to the crude projectile technology of their weapons, and their ability to come up with very simple, at times reckless, yet very effective plans that the Asgard are apparently too smart to come up with.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look parodied this trope (as well as the They Fight Crime! one) with a series of sketches about superheroes Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit. As discussed in each episode, poor BMX Bandit's abilities are rather overspecialized and contrived (he tended to come up with complex plans that involved a lot of BMX tricks) in comparison with Angel Summoner (who would just summon angels to resolve the issue).
  • In Thunderbirds, Alan and Thunderbird 3 are specialized for space rescues; Gordon and Thunderbird 4 for marine rescues. When these situations don't turn up, these craft aren't used. Gordon rarely plays a significant role when the rescue isn't at sea, but Alan (either because or in spite of the fact that space rescues are the rarest type) often goes on other missions (but not as the prime character, though).
    • Played with depending on the vehicle in the 2015 remake. Thunderbirds 3 and 5 have much greater use compared to the original due to the increase of space missions. In particular, Thunderbird 5 has various modules to allow John to tackle missions close to the space station. Thunderbird 4 still plays this straight but can launch from Tracy Island if Thunderbird 2 cannot be used to transport, and is even adapted for a couple of non-aquatic rescues due to its ability to handle extreme pressure.
  • Warehouse 13 has these crop up every so often.
    • One was a television related issue that only Pete could solve.
    • Pete's archery expertise has come in handy more often than you'd expect i.e. it has been useful at all.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Pokémon Trading Card Game, this is the card designers' standard response to when some particular cards run rampant in the competitive scene. Notable examples include:
    • Heatmor (Dark Explorers), who has one attack, Hot Lick, that does a measly 10 damage but does 60 damage if the target is Durant—and was released at a time the Durant Mill deck was making short work of most other decks. In particular, Hot Lick needs only 1 Energy of any type to use allowing Heatmor to fit into any deck, including other Durant Mill decks.
    • Not long afterward, the major force in the tournament scene were Pokémon SP, Basic Pokémon with decent strength that were augmented by a pretty large amount of supplementary cards. The result was decks centered around Pokémon SP having blinding setup speed and maneuverability, able to shift and adapt to anything any non-SP Pokémon can throw at it. Anything except for Machamp (Stormfront), who has an attack that will immediately KO any Basic Pokémon it targets. Machamp decks aren't designed to do much except end Pokémon SP decks, but there were so many Pokémon SP decks at the time that Machamp decks became an equally common scene in tournaments.

    Video Games 
  • Advance Wars:
    • The series has maps that, while normally quite the challenge, become ridiculously easy when the right CO steps up to the plate, and that's NOT counting COs already established as Game Breakers. The map Megalopolis is a prime example: There are no less than 6 Comm Towers on the map, and Javier dominates any map when four or more are in his control.
    • Sonja is widely considered to be the worst COs in the game considering her strengths are extended vision in Fog of War (which isn't present on all maps) and preventing the opponent from seeing her HP, funds, or loaded units which has no effect on the computer. Her weakness is overall bad luck, meaning that most of the time she's basically Flak (the weakest Black Hole CO) without his ability to score lucky critical hits. However, on a Fog of War map and against a human opponent, Sonja becomes a borderline Game-Breaker and the deadliest threat in the game if she activates her Super CO Power which boosts her vision, lets her see in forests and reefs, reduces her opponent's defense (In Dual Strike only), and lets her attack first when counterattacking.
  • Most playable civilizations in Age of Empires II have Unique Units, which have certain bonuses or extra abilities which diversify their militaries and encourage particular playstyles (ranged attacks on infantry or cavalry units, unrivaled speed or range bonuses, and so on). The Japanese unique unit, however - the Samurai - faces tough competition from Japan's other top-tier infantry (generic) unit, the champion. Samurai are only slightly more powerful than champions in their general stats, and they cost more gold to produce, which is a finite resource and makes samurai less cost-effective. However, if you're fighting civilizations which heavily rely on their own unique units, samurai gain an attack bonus against them, which turns them into terrifying killing machines capable of defeating all but the toughest unique units one-on-one.
  • Airforce Delta Strike: The titular squadron features one element that is all about special missions. Future warfare sure needs a lot of slow, fragile prop fighters to protect trains and clear out absurdly spacious subways.
  • Ancient Empires: Lizards and Elementals are a literal example. Though great in water, and essential for maps with a lot of water, on land they're no stronger than Soldiers despite being twice as expensive.
  • The SNES Edutainment Game Captain Novolin tells the story of a superhero whose superpower is the fact that he has Type-1 diabetes, and apparently he's the only one who can rescue the mayor of his town (who casually also has diabetes), from a bunch of aliens which have taken form of cookies, doughnuts, cans of soda, ice cream cones, among other sugary junk foods.
  • In the original Castlevania, the axe sub-weapon is hard to use effectively, as it travels in an overhead arc, which is ineffective at hitting enemies in front of you. It is, however, perfect for the first boss, a giant bat which spends most of the fight floating above you, out of range of any other weapon, and only descends to attack. Without the axe, it's a decently challenging fight. With it the bat falls squarely into Warm-Up Boss territory. (Luckily, the game is nice enough to hand you the axe just a couple screens beforehand, so you're highly likely to have it, barring a Self-Imposed Challenge)
  • In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, one of the sub-weapons you can get is the Cream Pie, which is about as effective as you expect on most enemies, due to the weapon being Dark-elemental which most enemies, being all manners of undead or otherwise infernal creatures, resist. However, it suddenly gains massive utility when fighting the Whip's Memory, which is weak to Dark damage, meaning you can easily defeat a simulated Richter Belmont just by tossing pies at it.
  • In Crash Team Racing, the "beginner" class of racers are typically seen as worthless because their only strength, superior handling, comes at the cost of having low max speeds and actually makes it harder for them to get power slide turbo boosts which are the way to win races. However, they completely and utterly dominate Battle Mode owing to their ability to maneuver around opponents and dodge projectiles. Even when playing Adventure mode you'll notice that, while you're struggling to win races and get even Sapphire Relics (where other racers can casually get a Gold with little problem) you'll be dominating the normally difficult Crystal levels with a solid 30 seconds to spare.
  • In Disco Elysium, one of the skills unlocked with the Thought Cabinet gives the Detective a +2 to hit targets wearing T-500 armor. It is an ultra specific, niche skill that won't be useful anywhere until an important end-game encounter.
  • In Doom Eternal, the Full Auto mod for the Shotgun and the Microwave Beam for the Plasma Rifle are generally deemed the least useful weapon mods in the game. The Ancient Gods DLC added new enemies that are explicitly weak to these weapon mods.
  • The prequel tie-in video-game for Pitch Black, Escape from Butcher Bay, reveals that Riddick's unique night-vision eyes are actually supernatural in origin, so this might also a literal Deus ex Machina. However, in any case, it's rather convenient that a killer whose modus operandi is to stalk enemies from the shadows should be granted the uncanny ability to see in the dark.
  • EMP weaponry in Event Horizon disables any Energy Shield the enemy has. This is of little relevance in normal gameplay since most of enemies aren't shielded at all, but starbases of several factions rely on powerful shielding as their only form of defense and become laughably easy to destroy after it is disabled.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout 3, with the Broken Steel DLC Fawkes, RL-3 and Charon's radiation immunity finally comes into play and they can be sent to turn on the irradiated water purifier without any problems.
    • In Fallout 4, many perks seem useless and have very specific uses but you'll be damned glad to have them when you do. For an almost literal example, the Aqua Boy/Girl perk makes you immune to radiation from swimming and wading in water sources - the many irradiated rivers which criss-cross post-apocalyptic Boston suddenly turn from difficult barriers to inviting avenues of approach, and you can also easily fish goodies out of flooded basements.
  • In Fate/Grand Order, a number of characters are pretty useless for either wiping out mobs in farming missions or defeating difficult enemies in story missions, but are incredibly strong at handling "challenge quests" or certain boss battles.
    • Angra Mainyu is generally considered a Joke Character. His Limit Break is Verg Avesta, an Attack Reflector that allows him to take the damage he takes in a turn and send it back at double strength (increasing when upgraded). Ordinarily, a mix of Health/Damage Asymmetry, his poor survivability, and the likelihood of the enemy not targeting him makes this ability pretty useless. However, in one challenge quest, the enemies are giant hermit crabs with an irremovable buff that grants them pretty hefty damage reduction, such that even teams built to do massive damage struggle with taking them down. Since Verg Avesta always does double the damage Angra took, this means it bypasses the crab's defenses and lets him finish them off in only a few turns.
    • Euryale is a fairly common and cheap Archer, with a kit designed to disable male enemies with Charm while she charges up her Noble Phantasm, then fire it off with extra anti-Male damage and another Charm stuck on top to buy her the time to do it again. While she's helpful in her niche, she tends to suffer from Crippling Overspecialization, as her damage output and utility against anything that isn't male tends to be kind of bad, and other single-target Archers can put in similar work. However, there's a very specific boss battle regarded as That One Boss: namely, the fight with Gawain in Camelot. Gawain is dripping with durability buffs, has high health to begin with, and charges up his hard-hitting Noble Phantasm very quickly. Against most teams, he shrugs off all damage and fires off a Herd-Hitting Attack every two turns that will probably kill the entire lineup. Gawain is male and has class disadvantage against Euryale, so she does double damage and takes half. Also, Euryale has a skill that drains enemy NP charge. Also, if Gawain is stunned by Charm, he can't charge. With her whole kit in play and some team support, Euryale can make an absolute mockery of Gawain, trapping him in a Cycle of Hurting with Charm as she fires off shots that take off a quarter of his health bar each and never lets him get his big attack off. It's not uncommon for players to raise up Euryale just to kill Gawain.
    • Mata Hari, generally regarded as one of the game's worst characters for her miserable stats, short-duration debuffs, and laughable damage, saw some use being pressed into service against the final boss of Part 1, Goetia. This is because one of her abilities is to seal skills, and Goetia always starts off his fight with a gigantic personal buff (which counts as a skill). On top of that, being an Assassin gives her super-effective damage against him in the meantime.
    • Ryougi Shiki is generally considered rather good, but one part of her kit that doesn't get much respect is her Instant Death abilities, which never work on enemies you'd actually want to kill. However, in the event where she was first available, every enemy had a significantly reduced resistance to instant death effects, meaning Shiki usually had about an 80% chance of killing whatever she could hit with her Noble Phantasm. This is particularly evident in one sidequest where her Void Shiki counterpart is available as a support Servant: it consists of three enemies that all have 6,666,666 HP, in a game where the hardest bosses tend to have HP in the 1-2 million range. Void Shiki is pretty much the only thing that can kill them in a somewhat timely fashion, and she's very likely to wipe them out in one turn.
      • Similarly, one of the last battles in the Babylonia chapter is against a horde of about 20 Boss in Mook Clothing Lahmu enemies. Your story support for this battle is Grand Assassin Hassan-i-Sabbah who can inflict Instant Death with their regular attacks, but any Servant with high chance to inflict Instant Death, like Shiki, Void Shiki, or Nitocris, works just as well.
    • Prototype Arthur's mix of a Herd-Hitting Attack, a Saber class, and a significant damage boost against Giant enemies means he often got knocked for not being able to bring all his buffs to bear properly: Giant enemies aren't common, Giant enemies that are weak to Sabers are rarer, and Giant enemies that are weak to Sabers and frequently come in groups is basically just the Jotuns. Coincidentally, the Giant Demon Boar challenge quest in Chaldea Summer Memory's rerun fits all these criteria, and even makes sense in-lore (Arthur has experience with these things).
    • Notably, this was infamously attempted in the Orleans singularity, which is full of strong dragon enemies, and towards the end, has you obtain Siegfried (a character with hefty damage boosts when fighting dragons) as a Guest-Star Party Member. As it turned out, though, Siegfried was not well-designed to kill dragons at launch, owing to his Stone Wall statline and lack of class advantage over the Rider-class dragons, meaning this instead became a Job for Sasaki Kojirou, who, despite being a one-star, was the cheapest character to boast class advantage over Riders and the only one to have an evasion skill at base level. This resulted in Kojirou becoming something of a Memetic Badass. Later on, Siegfried was Rescued from the Scrappy Heap by significant buffs to his damage that made him more able to kill dragons even without class advantage, and there have been a few events that actually do seem tailor-made to take advantage of his skillset (such as one Valentines event node which was nothing but Lancer-class dragons).
    • The infamous Nerofest First Hassan Exhibition Battle, particularly in its bugged American incarnation, is often seen as the hardest challenge the game ever produced, due to being a Marathon Boss with lots of damage and tons of instant-death attacks that bypassed defense and evasion. This resulted in Irisviel, at the time the only character capable of giving the whole party Guts (a skill that lets an ally survive an attack that would kill them with reduced health) on a regular basis, and who also boasted class advantage over Hassan, abruptly becoming very desirable as the only way to make sure your team survived when Hassan was almost guaranteed to kill at least one every two turns.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The White Mage class in general when used for offensive purposes. For most of the game they are pure support characters whose contribution to the party's offensive might is functionally non-existent. However, bringing a White Mage to a dungeon with a large amount of undead turns their healing magic into a powerful offensive weapon.
    • In the base game of Final Fantasy II, the Infinity +1 Sword super-spell Ultima has a damage formula that either is bugged and doesn't work (in the original) or is based on the combined levels of all the spells you've learned (in the remake). It's normally the definition of Awesome, but Impractical, since the damage formula is not a forgiving one, and it takes hours to grind up the five or six spells you probably use enough for it to dish out damage on par with your standard attacks. But in the Bonus Dungeon of the remake, you have Minwu, a Crutch Character who starts with dozens of spells already at low-mid levels — meaning he is perfectly suited to abuse Ultima's damage formula and becomes the party's heavy hitter.
    • Final Fantasy III has the very much subpar "Scholar" job, the primary function of which is to use the Scan ability to find an enemy's weakness and the Peep ability to find their HP. The latter is basically useless and the former is only truly useful in the fight against Hein (and his recolored counterpart in the Bonus Dungeon) who can change his weakness. The 3D remake downplays this by buffing the Scholar to be more generally usable: "Scan" and "Peep" are combined into "Enemy Scan" (which throws in Erase for good measure), the Scholar is given access to low-level magic, which their stat growths can finally use, and most importantly an item used by the scholar during battle will be twice as effective.
    • In Final Fantasy IV: Edward is easily the most useless character in the game. As a bard, his weapon is a harp with weak normal attacks. His two talents are songs and hiding. He songs often fail to work on regular enemies, and most bosses are immune to them. His hiding serves no purpose other then self-preservation. However, there is one moment where his musical talent saves the entire team, although ironically that happens when he's no longer a member of the main party. He uses his harp to disable the magnetic field in the dark elf's cave, which had been preventing the party from using most of the their weapons, saving the team from certain defeat.
    • Final Fantasy V features a Class and Level System. While many jobs are very useful from the get-go (such as Monk or Ninja) others, like Bard, don't get to do much... but the Bard does very well against the two Bonus Bosses (as Romeo's Ballad can temporarily stop Omega, and Apollo's Harp deals lots of Damage to Shinryu). He can also do a lot of damage to Undead enemies with Requiem. Many strong enemies are undead, some very surprisingly so.
    • Final Fantasy VI:
      • The game has Celes' Awesome, but Impractical Runic ability. While being able to absorb enemies' magic attacks and earn MP back from them sounds cool, against weak enemies in Random Encounters there's kind of no need since they don't use magic that often and are easily dispatched anyway, and is only useful if you really need to refill your MP. As a result some bosses were deliberately designed to be near impossible to beat WITHOUT using Runic. In fact, the first boss you fight right after recruiting Celes fits this—it casts a lot of magic and the Celes recognizes this and tells the player to use Runic in anticipation of its spells. For many players, this is the only time they ever use the ability, since Runic will also absorb any friendly spells you cast, like Cure.
    • Final Fantasy IX has Vivi's Doomsday spell, the ultimate black magic that causes shadow damage to all enemies and all allies at once, making it very likely to cause a Total Party Kill. There's equipment that can nullify or absorb shadow damage, but they quickly get outclassed by better gear later on and there's no random encounter or boss encounter where shadow damage even happens. On top of this, you can cause just as much damage to enemies with Flare or abusing the Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors and spending less MP to boot. The Bonus Boss, Ozma, has Doomsday in its arsenal and it will cast it while disregarding its own safety. Remember the equipment that could protect you from shadow damage? They're quite useful here.
  • The Frenetic Five game series is based entirely around this trope. The protagonists are a team of superhero temps with lame superpowers that turn out to be exactly what's needed to save the day each time.
  • Just get a new player character in a Golden Sun game? Expect a dungeon revolving around some trick that only they can perform. Likewise, old characters learning new tricks frequently leads to a dungeon in which that skill is required above all else.
    • The most obvious offender in Dark Dawn is in the lead-up to the final dungeon. A gate can only be opened by walking a very specific path that is only "visible" by use of Sveta's Track Psynergy, a power that is needed NOWHERE ELSE IN THE GAME (not even in her debut dungeon when she demonstrates it, that one focuses more on her Slap Psynergy).
    • Eoleo's Thermal is up there too: He knows it...for the hell of it, as otherwise he's a carbon copy of Tyrell, it takes a while for it to get used, and then it's only used for a short bit. Sure, he joins late, but Himi joins later and her Search psynergy gets way more plot and mileage!
    • In Craggy Peak's Zodiac-themed dungeon, there is a very confusing puzzle involving moving around statues of goats. The nearby stone tablet is cryptic ("The goat leaves no trace behind."). Looks like a job for Insight Psynergy!
  • In KanColle, certain quests and branching rules require you to use some ships that, due to not being particularly powerful, would normally be ignored by most players.
  • Kingdom Hearts II: The Final Mix version introduced a new Side Quest with friendly monsters that imitate the members of Organzation XIII. The majority of their tasks are specifically designed to make use of Wisdom Form's quick-but-weak attacks and sliding ability.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link collects a wide variety of tools and weapons. Most are useful. Others...not so much. But you can expect that the new shiny toy you just got will be used in the same dungeon you found it in, often to defeat the boss.
  • LEGO Adaptation Game: In every game there's usually a specific ability limited to one character alone.
    • In LEGO Batman 2, in certain areas, Joker-faced/Two-Face-faced/Riddler graffiti can only be removed by ... AQUAMAN.
    • LEGO Dimensions has many examples, including (naturally) Aquaman himself, who is the only character capable of summoning items from special pools, Chell (only person with an Aperture Science Portal Gun), Scooby-Doo (only character able to follow trails underwater), Cragger (only character able to use CHI-points underwater), Teen Titans Go Raven (only character able to open purple portals).
  • Mega Man Day in the Limelight 2 has Bubble Man as a playable character. He's the only character that can swim, but you arn't likely to use him much outside the water.
  • Mega Man Powered Up (an Enhanced Remake of the original Mega Man) allows you to play as any of the six original Robot Masters (and two new ones, given the proper conditions), so all of the stages from the original game were redesigned to allow them to make it to the end without getting stuck, with each stage having an alternate route exclusive to one of them. The boss weaknesses are also rebalanced, so that one weapon is effective against the boss, another is weak, and the rest do average damage (for example, Super Arm deals six units of damage to Cut Man, but Hyper Bomb only deals one unit, and the other special weapons only deal three).
  • Mega Man ZX:
    • Vent/Aile's human form in the first game is completely useless outside of two situations: When they need to talk to civilians (since they're too freaked out by the Biometal forms and just tell them to go away,) and when they need to climb through holes (since none of the Biometal forms can crouch.) Rescuing civilians from a burning building is an objective in Area G (civilians who are conveniently Too Dumb to Live and still refuse to cooperate unless they return to your unpowered form,) and there are plenty of crawlspaces connecting certain areas and acting as one-way passageways. Model LX is also the least practical form outside of its Item Scanner ability (it has a powerful melee weapon, but no ranged options that don't consume Weapon Energy and it can't attack while moving), but gains god-like maneuverability in water, which comes in handy in Area J, a place almost completely underwater and loaded with Spikes of Doom, and conveniently can only be accessed after gaining Model LX.
    • In Advent, Chronoforce is essentially a more armored Model L (which you get again) who's even more crippled outside of water (Model L can at least fight and move on land, Chronoforce is dead weight unable to move). However, Chronoforce's armored shell can still protect from attacks coming down from above, making it a useful impromptu shield, and its Time Bomb can still be used. Most importantly, it's completely possible to use Time Bomb, then switch to another form to take advantage of the slowed time.
  • The whole universe of Metroid is like this. Why, when their sworn enemy's most unique ability involves rolling up into a little ball, the Space Pirates persist in building their bases and ships with little passageways that can only be navigated by a ball-shaped object of exactly that size, no one knows.
  • In Paper Mario:
    • Sushie is a literal Fish out of Water whose main gimmick is Making a Splash attacks. The first dungeon after she joins you is a volcano where most of the enemies (including the boss) are weak to water, making her very useful here. But once that's done, fire-based enemies are relatively uncommon, so even though she does learn some powerful moves like Tidal Wave, there's not much reason to use her when other partners can do the same thing and tend to have better utility on top of that.
    • To a lesser extent there's Kooper. He's useful when he first joins since he can attack multiple enemies without an upgrade, but his inability to do anything against aerial enemies makes him less desirable once you get more partners, and neither his Super or Ultra Rank moves are particularly useful...until you get to the Shiver Region, where most of the enemies are weak to fire, so the otherwise forgettable Fire Shell suddenly becomes very useful.
  • Junpei in Persona 3 is usually considered a Tier-Induced Scrappy due to his Master of None tendencies. There is, however, one later boss that he is actually useful for as it is immune to everything except physical attacks. Of course, Akihiko, Ken, and Aigis is still a better combination; but it brings him from totally useless to at least somewhat useful.
  • Pikmin: The Blue Pikmin have no powers on land and are the primary target for enemy attacks. However, you won't be able to get all the ship parts/treasures without them, because they're the only Pikmin that can survive in water. Keep in mind that there are quite a bit of watery areas, especially in the Distant Spring/Perplexing Pool where the majority of the area is in water.
  • Pokémon:
    • In Pokémon Black and White, your first gym battle is against an opponent whose team is specifically designed to counter your part of the Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors triangle. However, due to events you'll do before the fight, you'll end up with a Pokémon who directly counters their part, turning the odds in your favour. The Pokémon themselves are pretty mediocre statistically and will probably only serve you for this one battle and not much else.
    • In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, Elesa still retains her difficulty level if your own Mons are underlevelled... unless you use a Sandslash with Rock Tomb and Dig. Sandslash's ground typing locks Elesa's Mons out of Volt Switch, and allows Sandslash to keep on attacking.
    • In competitive battles, several Pokemon are only useful for one situation or to counter one thing. Quagsire is only used to counter enemy stat boosts for stall teams, while Aerodactyl is used to quickly get Stealth Rock on the field for of heavy offensive teams. Half the Uber meta game revolves around countering Kyogre.
    • Shedinja is a particularly extreme example. It's a perpetual One Hitpoint Wonder immune to any moves that aren't Super Effective or residual damage. It just so happens that those moves happen to run rampant in most of the tiers, regulating it to uselessness... except, ironically, in the Uber tier, as it turns out most Olympus Mons forgot to pack a move that can hit it. Especially Kyogre.
    • Nosepass, in its debut, was a Fake Ultimate Mook in the same vein as Onix with piss-poor attacking stats that, most of time, make its massive defense go to waste. However, it has the coveted Magnet Pull ability to trap Steel-types, so it becomes exceptionally good at beating Skarmory, one of the premier Stone Walls.
      • Before evolving in Gen 4, Magneton was this for Gen 3. Magneton's stats and typing were not ideal for the metagame before or during Gen 3, but with Magnet Pull it was the ultimate Skarmory counter, since it could keep it trapped, shrug off anything in Skarmory's arsenal bar the rare Hidden Power Ground, and then blow it up with Thunderbolt. That was the main use for it, and one of the few it did well, but Skarmory was so big in the generation that such a role was worth using. As mentioned though, the evolution to Magnezone upgraded it to a more general usefulness.
    • Poison and Steel Mons have always been rather lame; both are notorious for having the worst offensive Mons in the series note , but they fill this role in Pokémon X and Y where Fairy-Types are the new powerhouses, and players will need to be packing Mons with good Steel and Poison attacks to deal super-effective damage to the Fairy-type Pokémon, who can hit hard. This is even more pronounced in Pokémon Sun and Moon, which introduced the Island Guardians, a quartet of Fairy-types who generate field effects in their favor when deployed. If you don't have a super-effective move ready, they will annihilate your Pokémon.
      • The move Steel Roller was introduced in Pokémon Sword and Shield's Isle of Armor DLC expansion. It's a very powerful Steel-type move that can only be used when said Island Guardians' field effects are in play and also ends those field effects. While the Island Guardians were not available yet, people quickly realized that any Pokémon with Steel Roller can destroy any Island Guardian that comes up.
    • Grass is also similarly a weak offensive type, with a whopping 7 types resisting it and the things it does hit super-effectively overlapping with more generally useful Electric and Water attacks. However, Game Freak introduced powerful Water / Ground type Pokémon such as Swampert whose sole weakness is Grass (and being a 4x weakness, nearly guaranteed to take them out in one blow), ensuring Grass attacks have a role as an anti-meta call against such threats. Starting in Generation VI, Grass-types are also immune to all moves involving powder and spores, moves that normally inflict nasty Standard Status Effects and can otherwise cripple an entire team. In particular is Amoonguss, a Stone Wall made even tougher to defeat by access to an otherwise guaranteed Sleep-inducing move...who, thanks to that immunity, crumbles in the face of any Grass Pokémon that can withstand Poison-type moves.
    • The starter trio in Pokémon Sword and Shield have Hidden Abilities, stats and movepools that do really well against each other in the same direction as their type advantages. While Cinderace is more usable than the others, it can change its type to adapt to anything Rillaboom can throw at it while never losing STAB, and its wide arsenal of moves means it has plenty of anti-Grass options outside of Pyro Ball. Inteleon is slightly faster than Cinderace and its type shoots through the few holes in its movelist, allowing it to keep the rabbit under control on even terms. And Rillaboom's Grassy Surge allows it to outpace Inteleon with Grassy Glide, its monster HP can help it soak up the one Snipe Shot the lizard will get off, and Rillaboom's monster Attack versus Inteleon's weak Defense means that engagement can only end one way.
  • It makes sense that the actual test chambers in Portal can all be solved using portals, as they were specifically designed with this purpose in mind. However, the maintenance corridors and so on were ostensibly not designed as such, and yet they are all perfectly suited to navigation via portals. This lends a certain credence to a popular fan theory that The Game Never Stopped.
  • Resident Evil:
    • In Resident Evil 0, Rebecca Chambers' only special talent is her ability to mix herbs. This is only a vitally important skill because she's teamed up with Billy, who is the only character in any Resident Evil game who can't do this.
    • In Resident Evil 5, the very few moments in the game where Sheva Alomar is actually of critical use are for tasks tailor-suited to make a partner necessary, like holding a gate open while you run through, carrying a lantern that is inexplicably too heavy to carry with a weapon readied, or reaching a ladder that Chris could probably reach on his own just by jumping. The rest of the time you'll be screaming at her to stop fricking dying, stop wasting your curative items and ammo, and standing at a jammed gate repeatedly mashing the button that makes Chris yell "COME ON!" over and over again while Sheva runs around in circles half a level away repeating "I can't right now!" over and over.
  • This is the case in many RTS games, such as those in the Command and Conquer and Supreme Commander series, where they introduce a new unit, building and power each level.
  • Castle Rush mode in Seven Knights pits you against one of the titular knights. The majority of the knights deploy some annoying ailments that you need some units just to protect you from them. In particular, you need Victoria to counter Eileene's Electrify, Yui to counter Dellons' Silence, Lania to counter Spike's Freeze, and either Karin or Leo to counter Kris' Death. With the exception of Victoria, this is the only part of the game where these units will ever be used.
  • Sonic Adventure: While the other playable characters have cool powers and weapons, Big the Cat has only a fishing pole. While the other characters have exciting, action-packed levels, Big's levels all have Big's Froggy conveniently end up in some body of water, and the level is spent fishing Froggy out of it (though Big can destroy small mooks with his fishing pole.) It even works this way for Big's Climax Boss. Chaos, the water Blob Monster, absorbs Froggy into its body. To beat the "boss," Big just has to fish Froggy out of Chaos' body. He doesn't really fight Chaos, but the game still treats this as a victory.
  • Lampshaded in Spider-Man 2. When someone tells Spidey that a ship is sinking near of the coast, he says something like: "This looks like a job for...some kind of swimming superhero! ...But since none are around, I guess I'll have to do."
  • In StarCraft II, a lot of the new units are introduced in missions specifically designed in such a way to make the new unit obscenely useful. The worst example of this is the Diamondback—it's a unit that can attack on the move and does bonus damage to armored targets, and just so happens to be introduced in a mission where you need to chase down fast-moving armored trains. After this mission you'll never build them again because they're rather expensive and simply aren't very useful in comparison to more versatile, cheaper units like the Goliath and siege tank.
    • Though the game justifies it fairly well by explaining that your ship's engineer can only prepare new hardware so fast and he makes a point of working on stuff that is specifically going to be useful for the next mission.
    • In Multiplayer, there exists a 'Hard Counter' mentality, where the standard response to "Unit X is Overpowered!" is "Make more of Unit Y." While there are indeed quite a few units designed with such purposes in mind, higher level play has shown that with sufficient skill anything can hard-counter anything else barring targeting limitations (air-only or ground-only).
    • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm has a justified example with a mission showcasing Dehaka and his Primal Zerg, which are immune to the anti-Zerg weapons they are facing. Since similar weapons had been used throughout the series, Kerrigan had been keeping them around for that very reason.
  • In (the GameCube version of) Soulcalibur II, Guest Fighter Link is, tier-wise, the weakest character in the game, but some Weapon Master objectives are easily achieved through his few strengths (read: ring outs and air combos).
  • Super Mario 64:
    • In the DS rerelease, Wario is one of the new playable characters. For the most part, he's useless compared to the other characters, but he is the only one able to break the black bricks.
    • To a lesser extent, Yoshi. He's really not required for much, beyond being your starting character. The only thing he can really do that no one else can is melt ice, which is used even less than black bricks. He can't even break the normal bricks, and so is outclassed by both Mario Brothers. The only gimmick Yoshi has going for him otherwise is that, once you've freed a Mario brother, you can automatically select their hat when starting a level, but the human characters can't turn into Yoshi, so Yoshi's the only character of the four who can access all four movesets and power-up sets in every level (apart from Bowser in the Sky and some of the secret bonus areas in Peach's Castle.
  • Tank units in Super Robot Wars series (Getter 3, Dai Tank, Gust Lander, etc.) are overshadowed by their base and speedster counterparts because they lack movement and damage output. However, they suddenly are very effective in water combats, especially in some maps that there are nothing but water in it, since they don't suffer a terrain penalty and get a natural protection against beam rifles. The underwater stage in Stage 26 of Third Super Robot Wars Z: Tengoku-hen has a pre-battle convo where Benkei is really excited that they're finally fighting in a water-based area.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Ganondorf has a special move called the Warlock Punch, which in each game is one of the most powerful attacks any character has access to, and the flatout most powerful of any attack that doesn't have variable power. The catch? It has massive start-up lag with limited reach, so it's nigh-impossible to land on an opponent that isn't incapacitated. It additionally has massive ending lag, ensuring Ganondorf will eat a heavy punish if he doesn't actually land it. This combination of nigh-impossibility to land while having very high risk to use makes it considered one of the more impractical moves. However, in the Home-Run Content minigame, Warlock Punch becomes the absolute best move any character could ask for. See, the Warlock Punch is so powerful, it's more powerful than the Home-Run Bat at high damages, as well as stronger than any other move. And since it's a move that executes with just a single press of a button, Ganondorf can wait until the last millisecond to use it, allowing him to rack up as much damage as possible in the time limit before using his finisher. Ganondorf himself can also rack up among the highest damage on the Sandbag within the time limit, so when combined with the Warlock Punch, he is the Home-Run King in every iteration of the Home-Run Contest, being able to send the Sandbag ludicrous distances exceeding 10,000 feet, far beyond what any other character is capable of.
    • Palutena from the Wii U and 3DS games has a custom move called Heavenly Light, where Palutena casts a giant beam of light from the sky around her. The light causes damage to anything under it, but it does only a little damage at a time and opponents don't even flinch to it. However, much like the Warlock Punch, while the move is garbage in actual fights, it is amazing in a mini-game; this time it's Trophy Rush. The range and damage are enough to break dozens of boxes at once as they rain down from the sky, racking up a huge combo meter easily.
  • Each hero in Superhero League of Hoboken has one main power, which can range from necessary mobility (being able to swim), combat-worthy (induce rust, put animals to sleep, raise cholesterol) and always useful; supportive (see through pizza boxes, clean almost any mess, vanquish baked goods) and nice to have along when the need calls for it; and highly specific (eat spicy food, fold road maps) which are called for once, maybe twice in the whole game, to complete a very specific challenge. (The hostel is buried in old, unfolded roadmaps! This looks like a job for Princess Glovebox!) There is precisely one power which never sees any use: the undroppable Crimson Tape's ability to Create Organizational Charts (though it might explain why he is the designated leader of the League...).
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Demoman can change up his whole focus by swapping out his grenade launcher and sticky bombs for boots and a shield and equipping a sword or axe in the melee slot. This turns him into a "Demoknight," with a blindingly fast charge, free crits, and a lot of damage resistance - but no ranged capability whatsoever, including the loss of all his bombs. Demoknights tend to be fairly hit-or-miss as a result... except on Medieval Mode, where the majority of ranged weapons are deactivated. On that mode, the Demoknight effectively gives up none of his prowess and everyone bar Snipers and Medics have to fight on his turf, and consequently, he becomes the most powerful character in the game.
    • In that same game mode, the Sniper's Huntsman bow and the Medic's Crusader's Crossbow go from being somewhat-viable alternatives to ungodly powerful. This is because they're the only primary ranged weapons to be unaffected by Medieval Mode, and any ranged weapon becomes a lot more effective when everyone else is in melee. By that same token, you'll also see a lot more Snipers using back-shields and Medics using the Amputator - the Sniper, because it's basically something for nothing, the Medic, because the Amputator's group-heal taunt becomes one of the few effective healing sources.
    • The Cleaner's Carbine is usually seen as one of the worst Sniper weapons out there; it takes an already ineffective weapon (the SMG) and then makes it worse at shooting people, in exchange for an ability that requires you to shoot lots of people, and said ability (eight seconds of minicrits for you) is directly outclassed by Jarate's ability to make people in an area take minicrits from everyone for ten seconds. But in Mann vs. Machine, one of the primary enemies is the Tank, a Stone Wall Damage-Sponge Boss with ridiculous health, Contractual Boss Immunity, and no offense; the challenge being to simply do lots of damage very fast. Jarate is useless, and so are your usual headshots, but the Carbine can effortlessly build up the damage needed to charge its ability. Add in the Bushwhacka, a knife that turns mini-crits into normal crits, and suddenly, unloading the Cleaner's Carbine into a tank and then charging in with melee out can do thousands of points of damage without using any upgrades or canteens.
    • The Hitman's Heatmaker, another Sniper weapon, has the downside of taking a penalty to bodyshot damage, and the upside that, after getting kills, you can activate Focus, which lets you stay scoped while reloading and increases your charge rate by 25%. In standard gameplay, this is seen as none too great; the inability to drop certain classes with a fully-charged bodyshot is irritating, and most of the time, you don't want to stay scoped after making a shot because it kills your field of vision and the target is probably dead already. But in MVM, there are Giant Robots that have so much health that they can survive multiple headshots, and the Explosive Headshots upgrade deals substantial damage to all bots in a short radius when the Sniper hits a headshot. A Sniper with the Heatmaker and good aim can keep shooting a Giant Robot without pause, dishing out massive damage while killing every bot in the area and staying Focused forever.
  • In Terra Battle, thanks to status ailments being Useless Useful Spell, Remedy characters (which specializes in curing and causing ailments) are situationally useful at best, used more for their secondary buffs/heals rather than their ailments. However, there's the Lamia battle, where most enemies (including the boss) takes next to no damage from both physical or magical attacks, and can only be killed with Poison. And the enemies has ailment spells with 100% success rate, so the Remedy characters' ailment curing and immunities are going to be vital.
  • In World of Warcraft:
    • The one person scenarios required to gain each artifact weapon is designed in such a way that it'd be incredibly difficult, if not outright impossible, for another class to do.
    • Some of the scenarios to unlock the class mounts (Demon Hunter and rogue in particular) would be impossible for other classes to complete.
    • The warlock questline to gain fel-tinted fire spells requires numerous warlock exclusive abilities such as enslaving demons and using the Eye of Kilrogg to find safe passage around invisible traps.
  • XCOM 2 has a somewhat downplayed mission in the DLC, "Shen's Last Gift", where your chief engineer ends up going along on a mission to investigate a transmission. Very few missions outside base assaults involve any major quantity of mechanical units, but in this one, it's all robots. And Lily is a very powerful anti-mechanical unit, with the ability to control 'Mechs or do massive amounts of damage to otherwise strongly damage-resistant machines. And they have cooldowns instead of being limited to one use per mission.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom, Mako's marshal ability, which makes his team move fast if all of his monsters are Aqua-type, is near-useless... unless the enemy has both anti-air and anti-ground cannons. Since swimming monsters don't fit either traveling style, Mako's teams can bypass the cannons and attack very quickly.

  • xkcd:
    • Invoked in the Alt Text of "Etymology Man", wherein they pedantically dissect the etymology of "tidal wave" until they are surrounded by the rising water.
      "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish Aquaman were here instead—HE'D be able to help."
    • And who better to deal with rampaging windmills than... HIM. At long last, he's proven right.
  • Lampshaded in the infrequent Supers theme of Irregular Webcomic!, when the GM complains that it's really hard to come up with an uncontrived Eigen Plot to fit Dino Boy, Captain Spatula, Refractive Man, and Worm-Master. Hilariously, outside of the one strip where he managed it, Worm-Master is an aversion - his loyal worm hordes are never any use.
  • Possibly due to being the daughter of fishermen, Dame Lien from The Order of the Stick is a paladin with a shark mount, a harpoon, and a magic ring that lets her breathe water. So, during the battle of Azure City she gets tasked with guarding the docks. Becomes much more important when the battle worsens and the Azurites have to evacuate by boat, and she is a major combatant for the chapters while they are at sea.
  • Oglaf:

    Web Original 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Fire Guy has his uses, like being a great campfire.
  • Parodied in Harry Partridge’s “Dr. Bees” skit. After the titular superhero goes about making everything worse with his bees, we finally see a situation clearly tailor made for him to solve (a bee convention that has no bees). Dramatic music swells... and Dr. Bees doesn’t show up. Smash cut to his corpse in the middle of the desert.

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshadeed in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo when the villainous Nekara is introduced, who has the specific-to-the-point-of-being-worthless power of being able to charm a warlock, and only a warlock, and only on friday the thirteenth, and then is able to drain their power with a kiss, but is otherwise no more powerful than an average human woman. Shaggy actually comments on how lame her powers are compared to the other ghosts, though Vincent Van Ghoul points out she is a genuine threat to them because he happens to be a warlock and it happens to be Friday the 13th.
  • Action League NOW!:
    • Meltman, with the power to...Melt! However, since he is only observed melting in the opening, this is more of a What Kind of Lame Power is Melting Anyway? He did manage to get them tickets to a KISS concert, though.
    • Fellow member The Flesh has two powers, one of which ("He's super strong...") is of obvious usefulness. However, contriving a situation where his other power ("... and super naked") came in handy was apparently too much of a challenge for the writers.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! has Ant-Man's ability to communicate with bugs turn the tide of a few battles in the Avengers' favor.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold
    • Downplayed by the show's version of Aquaman, which plays up his Super Strength and adds overt hydrokinesis to his arsenal, as well as giving him a general Boisterous Bruiser persona, which makes him a valuable ally in just about any environment. However, episodes featuring him do tend to involve aquatic setpieces, so that he can make use of his telepathy: for instance, one episode has Clock King holding someone hostage right in front of a lobster tank, and another has Ra's attempting to defend his lair with a giant sea monster. Other times, Aquaman keeps his powers useful through Achievements in Ignorance.
      The Atom: Silverfish? But... they're insects!
      Aquaman: A fish is a fish, even if it's a bug.
    • Subverted in the episode "Night of the Batmen!" Aquaman, filling in for an injured Batman, fights The Penguin. Penguin makes a daring escape on his submarine, but then quickly steers the sub onto land and cuts through the city streets.note 
  • In Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Gi can only use her Water ring to affect a nearby source of water. Fortunately, there always happens to be one available when she needs it, even if it is just a bucket of water lying around for no reason. Wheeler, whose ring can reasonably have the same limitation, doesn't have to worry about it, as his ring can create fire at will. Ironically it is the fire ring that the series has to come up with increasingly contrived uses for (there aren't that many non-violent ways to use a flamethrower); in quite a few episodes Wheeler is just sort of present without using his powers at all.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • Justice League:
      • Averted by its version of Aquaman. He straight up tells the League to shove off, and only later, after making nice, does he say he'll help out...when he can. He doesn't really care about the surface world and their problems. It is used properly in one episode, though: Aquaman, while helping the league, has just beaten a Shapeshifter. He is next challenged by that character's brother. Considering these two characters are based on the Wonder Twins, his power isn't exactly useful against the King of the Seas...
        Aquaman: (After the hydrokinetic twin tries to blast him with a tidal wave) "King of the Sea, remember?"
    • The Atom, even though he only has one power, the ability to shrink averts this trope. We only see him use his powers twice on the show (once to take down the heart of a world eating nano machines and to run from Amazo [which didn't work]) he still is a genius physicist and the League on occasion has called on him for his unique expert opinion. Still is rarely seen on the show.
    • Played straight with Green Arrow in his first mission with the League. The enemy is a giant unstoppable robot and the only way to deactivate it is to insert a carbon rod in a small opening in its chest cavity. However, none of the team members can get close enough because the robot is on fire. This was resolved of course, by Green Arrow turning the rod into an arrow.
    • Said almost word for word by Gear in Static Shock when Static and Gear fight a water-using Bang Baby. Static's response? "He'll have to get in line."
  • By season two of Dino Squad, the writers were apparently at a loss as to why vain, fashion-obsessed Caruso was still a member of the team. The result was an episode devoted to his battle against the Big Bad's guards and a horde of voracious giant ants — both of which helpfully turned out to be terribly vulnerable to yoga and scented hand cream.
  • In Dragons: Riders of Berk episode "Free Scauldy", the Dragon Riders are only able to tame and help the Scauldron 'Scauldy' because Ruffnut uses fish oil in her hair (to give it "this greasy unwashed look"), causing her hair to smell like fish and prompting Scauldy to listen to her efforts to calm him down and keep him distracted while the other Riders free Scauldy's trapped wing.
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • In the episode "Power Pals" Timmy wishes for SUPERFRIENDS and gets a whole team of superheroes. One of them is a blatant expy of Aquaman who is only useful in water. When Timmy tries to get rid of them by sending them to a planet in another galaxy:
      A.J.: (When asked for coordinates) It's a planet filled with water.
      Wet Willy: I say we go!!
    • The Superhero Episode dealt with Timmy wishing for a world of Superheroes after being shafted by ordinary job folks in time of need (fireman, milkman, postman, etc). These ordinary people wind up helping Timmy defeat the Nega-Chin after he and his friends are stripped of their powers.
  • Futurama:
    • Fry has no superpowersnote ; he also has no Delta brainwaves, making him the only organism more advanced than a tree who can battle the Brain invasion. He has also saved the planet with his knowledge of 20th century television, and his 20th century garbage making skills. Among other things.
    • Also, Dr. Zoidberg, whenever his unique powers are required - for example in "Mothers Day" when Leela gets him to open a tin can with his claws. "Hooray! I'm useful! I'm having a wonderful time!"
    • Bender was built initially designed as a "bending unit". In other words, a robot whose sole purpose was to bend objects. Not just objects, but specific ones, namely girders. Not just girders, mind you, but specifically girders used for making suicide booths. This is all explained in the Pilot, in which he later gets "deprogrammed" to bend universally, but his primary function remains throughout the series, where he and his fellow employees frequently find themselves in situations where the solution just happens to involve bending an object. Though being Futurama of course, it's subverted quite often. Where Bender would declare some tasks as "primitive, degenerate forms of bending" and just do them anyway.
    • It's also surprising how many things Hermes has to limbo under to save the day.
    • The episode "Zapp Dingbat" establishes that Leela's mutant father Morris is a sewer-surfing aficionado. In the episode's final moments, the characters' ship is attacked by aliens whose laser blasts form enormous waves, and after main navigation is knocked out, the only remaining controls are a surfboard-like device with twenty buttons in a keyboard-like arrangement. To top it off, Morris reveals for the first time that he has ten toes on each foot…
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends has some X-Men Expies. Our Gambit expy had...Super Cottage Cheese control powers... Fortunately, Jon, being a complete moron, had been scammed into buying a very expensive yogurt-dispenser with a warranty (Well made, just priced the same as a mansion). Fortunately, those Cottage Cheese powers end up working on the yogurt.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002):
    • There was an episode devoted to Mekaneck complaining about his relatively useless power. Almost every obstacle in the episode (a maze of long narrow corridors, toxic gas that remains low to the ground, and the villain holding the Artifact Of The Week from a high altitude) seemed tailor-made for a person whose neck extends.
    • The show also had a subversion during a later episode, by giving the villain Stinkor - a humanoid skunklike character with the power to, well...stink - an upgrade that turns his rotten B.O. into directed jets of corrosive gas. As such, what was a laughably weak villain that the original series' creators swore they would never introduce to the series became such a big threat to He-Man and gang, that - during his debut episode - Skeletor not only recruited him as a minion, but also excluded from his usual punishment to failed minions. It helped that his abilities were clearly more geared for support rather than straight up attacking like the rest of Skeletor's forces. He would use his gas to disable the heroes by making them too sick to properly fight, giving the other minions a window of opportunity to take them out. If the rest of Skeletor's minions STILL couldn't take down the heroes after Stinkor's efforts to disable them, then it was hardly his fault if they failed.
  • In an episode of Kim Possible, Mr. Stoppable, the Actuary, spends an entire episode trying to be a hero to his son. He finally succeeds when his number-crunching skills turns out to be very useful against a one-shot villain with a very specific gimmick:
    Kim: Did you know your dad had it in him?
    Ron: No, but who knew we’d be facing a math-crazed villain?
    Kim: Yep. So convenient.
  • In an episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert the politics of climate change are parodied with animated clips from Aquaman cartoon shows re-voiced to claim that Aquaman is now the best superhero.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • This was the main failing of the cartoon episode "Karate Kid" - Karate Kid earns his place in the Legion not because he's a Badass Normal who can keep up with the rest of the Legion on a usual mission but because the villain of the week happens to obtain a way to nullify superpowers. Particularly unfortunate since Karate Kid in the LSH comics embodies the Charles Atlas Superpower and doesn't require such contrivances.
    • To a lesser degree 'Phantoms' had Phantom Girl save the Legion from being trapped in the Phantom Zone by using her intangibility (though Brainiac 5 and Lightning Lad helped amplify it to phase everyone out).
  • Downplayed in Miraculous Ladybug; while none of the Miraculous powers are useless, the various Guest Star Party Members tend to only be called in when Ladybug and Chat Noir have need of them (such as requiring Rena Rouge's Mirage ability to distract the Sapotis, or Pegasus's Voyage to bring the Startrain back to Earth).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the episode "Equestria Games," one of the ice arrows is misfired into a cloud, creating an iceberg that is about to fall on the stadium full of sports fans. The unicorns are powerless to stop it, and it's too heavy for Celestia, Luna, and the pegasi to safely guide to the centre of the field. Their only hope is a fire-breathing dragon, and Spike is the only one at the Games. The show actually has an oddly amusing habit of writing off Spike's fire-breath, shown to be capable of melting iron and stadium-sized blocks of ice in seconds, as a "relatively useless ability" in spite of countless episodes where it could have saved the day in seconds.
    • In the 2018 holiday special, a rampaging winterzilla can only be calmed down by Fluttershy, who can speak to animals. Discord admits he set it to rampage on purpose as a present to Fluttershy. Just as Rainbow Dash is starting to tear into him for doing something so dangerous, Fluttershy admits it was nice to be the hero for once. Rainbow Dash says the present was from both of them.
  • The Paw Paw Bears episode where the Paw Paws realise they rarely need Totem Turtle's help is the one where Dark Paw decides to attack from under water.
  • The Powerpuff Girls episode "Three Girls And A Monster" has Blossom and Buttercup unable to dispose of a giant lizard monster. Mainly because it's too big and strong, but also because the two sisters are arguing over whether brains or brawn are more effective. This leaves Bubbles. With her sweetness, innocence and politeness, she... asks it to leave. And it does.
  • Robot Chicken had a go job for Snow Job. But it was just his fellow G.I. Jerks pranking him (they apologize for it later).
  • Rugrats:
    • One episode has the babies imagining themselves as superheroes from Phil's favourite TV show. The first adventure they go on utilise every baby except Chuckie (whose power is to drive their van). So Chuckie comes up with the next adventure that makes him the hero. This time everyone except Kimi get used so it was her turn for the next adventure.
    • "Mega Diaper Babies" has Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil pretending to be their favorite heroes, the Mega Hyper Heroes. While Tommy, Phil and Lil have useful abilities,note  Chuckie only has "the smell of two babies". However, it's that power that defeats Angelitronnote  and wins the day.
  • In Sabrina: The Animated Series when they end up getting sucked into Harvey's comic book world, Sabrina has the seemingly useless power of making squids shoot out of her hands. Harvey's power is to make anything he draws come to life and when he runs out of ink seconds away from defeating the Big Bad, Sabrina suddenly remembers what squids can make...
  • Played for laugh in Saturday Night Live TV Funhouse's Kobayashi the Hot Dog Eater short, in which Takeru Kobayashi, whose only power is eating hot dogs, saves a bunch of school kids from a burning school by eating the back wall of the building, which is inexplicably made of hot dogs.
  • The parody of Knight Rider shown on The Simpsons (called Knight Boat, the crime solving boat):
    Michael: Oh, no! They're headed for land. We'll never catch them now.
    Knightboat: Incorrect: Look! A canal.
    Homer: Go, Knightboat, go!
    Bart: Oh, every week there's a canal.
    Lisa: Or an inlet.
    Bart: Or a fjord.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Most Gem-made security systems are made to target a Gem's unique physiology, and will aim straight for the Gem if they find one, while ones simply meant to contain will damage the Gem's light-based physical form. With that in mind, these systems are highly ineffective or just plain don't work at containing organic creatures. As such, when Lars finds himself on Homeworld, he quickly becomes a hero to the Off Colors by using this to his advantage. Specifically, by blocking Gem-searching beams with his own body.
    • Padparadscha is a defective Sapphire that can only see into the recent past. This is usually a crippling Superpower Disability (she has a hard time seeing the present, and thinks she's seeing the future when seeing the past. This means you're often having to drag her out of the line of danger she hasn't noticed yet or wait for her to catch up with what's going on.) but it comes in handy a few times. She used it to figure out that Emerald specifically meant to miss her shots at the ship, and at another time to catch that the captain was pressing the wrong button.
  • Aquaman on the Super Friends show.
  • Zigzagged by Teen Titans. While Aqualad does only show up when the ocean is in trouble for the most part, he's proven that he's perfectly capable of fighting on dry land. (Most people tend to forget he's also got super strength - AND Hydrokinesis.)
  • An episode of The Tick had Arthur and the Tick follow the normally useless Sewer Urchin on a mission into the sewers where it turns out his abilities are phenomenally useful, he has a cool hideout, he is respected and feared by the natives, and he is unflappable in the face of the sewer's strange and horrifying obstacles. He describes himself as "the apotheosis of cool" in his realm.
  • Transformers:
    • Several characters have vehicle modes that are only useful in a severely limited number of situations. Seaspray's watercraft mode basically limits his usefulness to situations that take place on or around water note , much like Aquaman. Even more limited is Perceptor, whose alternate mode is a microscope, thus limiting his effectiveness to situations where things are found that need a microscope for evaluation. Every once in a while, they do get their opportunity to shine. Perceptor is also a scientist, not a warrior, so he's not very upset by his lack of a combat-oriented altmode. Later stories tend to point out that he's actually a Triple Changer; like his original toy, he can also become a tank (which basically just looks like the microscope with its scope pointing upward and treads folded out, but still). Several other characters avoid this trope by being able to ignore the limitations of their altmodes somehow (for instance, characters with train modes can drive around on flat ground).
    • Overlapping with Forgotten Phlebotinum, characters tend to forget certain powers or abilities to create these situations. For instance, in the second episode, all the Autobots could fly without assistance. In the third episode, only Sideswipe (whose toy bio gave him a rocket pack) could fly, so he could lend the rocket pack to Optimus and help save the day. On a similar note, the Decepticons can usually fly through space unassisted... except when Astrotrain (who turns into a space shuttle) is around, in which case they pile into him.
    • Beast Wars's third season featured four different episodes involving water-based setpieces, after the previous two seasons took place almost exclusively inland. Coincidentally, this was right after bounty hunter and aquatic specialist Depth Charge joined the team. By a similar coincidence, Depth Charge's rival Rampage had also picked up an aquatic altmode the season prior, giving them a lot of room for grudge matches. Like some modern Aquaman incarnations, Depth Charge wasn't by any means incompetent out of water, but his skillset would have been an Informed Ability otherwise.
  • Young Justice:
    • Averted in that the Aqualad of this continuity can harden his water into solid objects like swords, have durability that can withstand Superboy's bounding, and electric eel tattoos on his body that can electrify the water. He was also the team's leader during the first season.
    • However, Lagoon Boy in season 2 plays this trope straight. He lacks Aqualad's weapons and electrical abilities and so usually only gets used in missions near bodies of water. The Heroes Unlimited nature of the second season makes this far less obvious, though. This does get a lampshade when Lagoon Boy whines about being "stereotyped as the water guy" but it's at least as much because he's obnoxious and annoying and no one really likes working with him unless the situation absolutely requires it.
    • One episode features a villain plot to split the world of adults from the world of children (they've been essentially shunted into two separate dimensions). Captain Marvel's otherwise-useless (in this continuity, at least) Older Alter Ego becomes a way to bridge the gap and coordinate efforts between the adults and children.
  • Downplayed in Harley Quinn (2019), as while Clayface's powers can be used in several instances, it's his disguise ability that has the most trouble as he tends to go Large Ham and blow his cover. However, the only person he can perfectly masquerade as is Aquaman, as both have hammy dialect and manages to perfectly fool two Atlantean guards.


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