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Too Awesome to Use

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"But what if another one shows up?!?"

"We are certainly in great need," answered Caspian. "But it is hard to be sure we are at our greatest. Supposing there came an even worse need and we had already used it?"
"By that argument," said Nikabrik, "your Majesty will never use it until it is too late."

It's flashy. It's awesome. It's unstoppable.

But it's also single-use and impossibly scarce.

Yup, it's going to sit safe and sound in your inventory until the very end of the game.

Games such as RPGs featuring an inventory system are prone to giving you items that are scarce but very powerful. It could be an item that buffs all your stats and makes you invulnerable for an extended period of time. It could be a special power that lets you fly, or a Status Buff that lets you destroy an enemy with the snap of your fingers. It could be a Superweapon with an extremely limited amount of ammo, or an ultimate sword that breaks after a certain number of uses.

The item is useful, awesome, and practical — unfortunately, you're never going to use the item outside of maybe the last boss (as you wouldn't need it afterwards). This is either because you're afraid to waste such a valuable treasure and will be waiting for that one good opportunity to use it... and that opportunity never comes. Or maybe because it simply pains you to imagine having it missing from your inventory. This goes double if you never know what and how many unexpected and arbitrary-difficulty challenges the game might throw at you any next moment (and JRPGs love doing that), so you feel compelled to always hold to a failsafe or multiple just in case. note  In any case, prepare for much anguished deliberating on whether to A. slog through a fight that is harder than it would otherwise be, but save your items; or B. use the item(s) and have more fun, but maybe be punished for it later. In particularly egregious cases, this can be an example of player-hostile game design.note 

Another factor that contributes has to do with game balance. If you make a super-powerful super-rare healing potion, it'll be most useful in a similarly difficult battle. But what if the player used the potion already? Do you make that fight easy enough that it's winnable without the potion (thus the optimal option is to fight without it because you didn't actually need it), or make it so difficult it's heavily recommended to use the potion (thus a player that did waste the potion hits a brick wall)? Of course, you may save it until the last boss, only to realize you can't use it during boss fights.

If a Too Awesome to Use item sticks around long enough, it can sometimes become Awesome, but Impractical as it gets outclassed by a much more efficient or re-usable item; in a game with Character Levels, it may also just become useless as your characters' stats outstrip the item's power. In any case, the item may just become useful in the Bonus Dungeon if one exists in the game.

Conversely, if there's an item duplication glitch in the game or some game mechanic that lets you obtain a spare or two, then of course you're going to be using it all the time.

This is often the effect of Power Equals Rarity; in turn it's a given that these items side with quality in the duality of Quantity vs. Quality.

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    Action Games 
  • World of Tanks is a multiplayer arcade tank arena combat game that features optional consumables, such as first aid kits, repair kits, and fire extinguishers. In previous builds of the game, such items were single-use consumables that could only be spent once per match. However, this meant that you could, for instance, expend your pricey deluxe repair kit to bring your destroyed tracks back into action and escape destruction, only to have your ammo rack knocked out two minutes later, crippling your damage-dealing ability for the rest of the match. Thus, players often held on to such consumables for far too long, resulting in otherwise survivable situations being lost because players were refusing to use their items in case they would need it later. Thankfully, Wargaming realized that this was leading to an extremely gun-shy, passive player base, and decided to allow consumables to work on a cooldown; now, expending a consumable activates a 90-second cooldown timer, which is usually enough to justify the item's use presently with the potential for 'later' use if needed.
  • Zombies Ate My Neighbors:
    • A flamethrower is located in a hidden alcove. Despite being the strongest weapon in the game, the flamethrower is unique, only has 400 ammo and is best saved for the final boss.
    • Other rare items, like Red Potions and Pandora's Boxes, may also qualify.
    • And if you're smart you will never once use the Bazooka either to kill an enemy, even though it downs a lot of the otherwise Demonic Spiders in one or two shots. This isn't because ammo is scarce (quite the contrary), it's because the thing is simply too valuable for blasting open doors and cracked walls.

  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night does this with the Diamond Bullets. Not available until very late in the game, they're incredibly powerful, basically allowing Miriam to one-shot nearly any non-boss enemy and even able to take down bosses in a few hits with even mid-game guns, let alone the best ones. However, they're very expensive to make or buy (one key ingredient isn't available outside of an obscenely rare drop from an uncommon enemy until late in the game, and they can't be bought until they've been made for the first time), and each craft/purchase only makes 9 bullets (outside of late-game Game-Breaker tricks). Plus, using guns can be a bit finicky if the player isn't used to how they work in the game. As such, they typically get made once and are left to gather dust in the inventory until the player clears the cooking sidequest to get the Recycle Hat, which makes all ammunition infinite when equipped.
  • This mechanic is used to play a cruel joke on players of Boktai 2 and 3. Deluxe Chocolate, which never expires and restores a good portion of health AND mp, can only be found once in the entire game. However the game never bothers to tell you that you can make Deluxe Chocolate whenever you want by positioning chocolate over another piece of chocolate in your item screen and waiting for it to melt. The game also plays this straight with the various tarot card items which do things such as automatically resurrect you when you die or fully restore your health and mp.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has any number of powerful, one-shot items that most players will hang onto "until the right time". But as the game is relatively easy compared to later Metroidvania-style games (and possesses what many consider the easiest Dracula fight in the series), that time will never come. On the second or later playthrough of the game, it is possible to obtain an item called the Duplicator, making those single-use items infinitely reusable; still, it's easy to see why many of them became equippable (and thus infinite-use) sub-weapons in later games.
  • The Heart Pot you receive from Jenka in Cave Story: using it completely refills your Life Meter, and then it's gone. It does turn out that you can later go back to Jenka to get another anytime you want, but soon after getting the first one comes a long Plot Tunnel where you can't return to Sand Zone. On top of that, there are often sequences where you can't freely grab Heart Pots without resetting the level. And to a lesser extent, just going out of your way to go back to Jenka's house is a minor annoyance in general.
    • Notably, you cannot get another pot in the final stretch of the game, which is four boss fights; if you're going for the best ending, this is followed by the Bonus Level of Hell and by two more boss fights, the last of which has four stages. So yeah, still too awesome to use.
  • La-Mulana and its sequel both have the Pistol, which is basically the same thing as the Diamond Bullets above. Absolutely wrecks everything, but expensive to buy and ammo refills for it are even more expensive than the gun itself. However, both games have places to very quickly grind money once Item Fairies are unlocked, and the second game has the hot spring in the Ancient Chaos, which provides a temporary buff giving you infinite subweapon ammo. That said, half the appeal of La-Mulana is that it's Nintendo Hard, so anyone playing it might refain from using the Pistol anyway specifically because of how powerful it is.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Subverted in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The developers clearly thought Bombchus, which are in essence a projectile version of bombs, would be this. They are rare, come in finite quantities, and are even dolled out as a quest reward from the Fabulously Rich Family alongside wallet upgrades and infinite money. However in practice they are impractical at best and outright worthless at worst as there is rarely a scenario (outside of a few tailor-made puzzles, and the club-wielding Moblin) where they are handy thanks to their janky movement pattern and Link having so many alternatives to taking down foes — even their oft-advertised effectiveness against Iron Knuckles can be done just as well by just chucking regular bombs at one. The devs clearly realized this as all later games either treated them as regular consumables and made them as readily and cheaply available as candy, or gave them homing or guided movements.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker:
      • Elixir Soup refills all your magic and life AND doubles your attack power until you take damage (the only item in the game to do so), and you can do this twice with one bottle since she gives you two servings. Since getting a refill requires going all the way back to your house, an unpleasant task if you're in the middle of a dungeon, and since the game is relatively easy in the first place, you might opt to search for hearts and potions in grass and pots rather than using it, and you might beat the whole game without using it. (But you'll keep one with you anyway since they're the best thing to have in your bottle.)
      • The Fill-Up Coupon for Beedle's Ship Shop. It automatically refills all ammo-dependent items in your inventory, but you only get one... Because the game is obligated to give you ammo in areas where you need them, and because the game almost always prioritizes ammo when you're not already full, you'll always feel more justified in just scavenging some ammo, rather than using the coupon. Because the coupon can also only be redeemed at one of the Ship Shops, even if you were completely empty on all arrows, bombs, and running low on hearts, there's still no reason to go out of your way to find Beedle just to use said coupon.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you are rewarded with a bottle of Fairy Tears for collecting 20 Poe Souls. These not only refill Link's health completely, but they increase his attack power temporarily as well (unfortunately, only for 10 seconds at best). However, in order to get more than just the one, you have to take Link on a quest through the "Cave of Ordeals". But again, they are refillable and free afterward, and beating the entire Cave lets you refill on Fairy Tears in 5 different areas in Hyrule. Rare Chu Jelly does the same thing, but good luck getting them in a crush of ChuChu or finding where they spawn.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, you can buy a certain potion that makes you take half damage for a while. You can also upgrade it to make you invulnerable instead. The period during which the potion lasts is rather long, and unlike the attack-boosting soup/potions from Wind Waker and Twilight Princess it is not canceled after being hit once. Once you get a certain other item, the potion duration is further increased. So you got an item that makes you invincible for a few minutes? Nope, won't use it despite its power, maybe because it ironically enough it's too good and feels a bit cheap.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
      • The game's durability system and lack of a way to properly repair weapons (excluding the Champions' weapons) make this so. The player never wants to use powerful weapons on weak enemies (or even on powerful ones) because you want to save it for harder enemies, and it will inevitably break. Even the shields and bows break after use, meaning that oftentimes, players will forego combat entirely unless hunting for ingredients to upgrade clothing to avoid damaging their weapons. Jim Sterling even references the trope by name in a video discussing their dislikes about said system.
      • The Champions' weapons themselves hit this trope despite the ability to have replacements crafted when they break; in no small part because, being inherited from the Champions, they have great sentimental value in and out of universe. The sequel addressed this by having the weapons crafted for you on-demand rather than being heirlooms, and providing a way to re-acquire all other "unique" weapons after they break.
      • Certain ingredients such as Star Fragments and dragon pieces, which have inconvenient farming methods. The former drop rarely, at random, and players have to be paying attention to the falling star trail and go through tracking it down. For the latter, the dragons have set spawning areas and "paths" that they fly through, but they only spawn at fixed times of the day, the player has to make it to their location before they leave through their portal, and only one piece of them can be collected per day. These ingredients allow for some of the highest armor upgrades in the game, or the latter can be used to create recipes with status buff effects that last half an hour. With that in mind, it's entirely possible to have a small collection of dragon parts just sitting in a player's inventory without making the firm choice on just what to use them on.
      • Half-hour food boosts themselves, which comes from cooking with dragon horns or a rare result of using Monster Extract. Thirty whole minutes with boosted attack or speed would be extremely useful, except there are few single quests that would take the player that long, and only one food buff may be active at a time. Save Scumming can be used with the latter to always get the full thirty minutes.
  • The Lightning in Medievil is the most powerful weapon in the game, but you have no way to recharge it if you run out. Most players never bother actually using it.
  • Spiral Knights has the Mist Tank, which you only get once after passing the tutorial and refills your Mist Energy once, i.e. the "currency" you need to enter levels and craft equipment. The community has, however, puzzled out an optimal method of spending the bonus Mist and the original starting 100 that will leave a new player economically competitive without having to go through the traditional starting grind.
  • Tomb Raider:
    • Thanks to there being almost no hint of when it might be safe to use them, and is generally placed in arbitrary positions, the rarer-than-gold dust save crystals in the PlayStation version of the third game ended up suffering from this for a lot of people. Previous games encouraged/forced players to manage their inventory by striking a balance between using medi-kits and using ammunition for the better weapons when confronting dangerous enemies. The crystals created a third thing to manage, and the more obsessive-compulsive players could find this pretty stressful.
    • The Rocket Launcher in the same game, whose ammo is obviously very limited, is best saved for the last two levels. To add insult to injury, you lose all your weapons and ammo in Area 51.
    • Large health kits are rare to find, thus players will opt to use the small health kits to recover just half their health, even if they are near death and would benefit from a full heal.

    Adventure Games 
  • Two items in Candy box! seem like this but one subverts it. The Berserk Potion makes the player move twice as fast and deal much more damage, but there's a finite amount that one can find in the game. As for the Chocolate Bar, you only obtain one before the post-game which makes it invoke this trope, but its one and only use is to upgrade your sword.
    • In the game's sequel, Chocolate Bars become a genuine example of this trope. You can get more than one of them now, but their numbers are still limited and they have multiple possible uses this time, being able to upgrade multiple weapons and armor or be traded for permanent stat boosts. However, after you beat the final boss, you gain the ability to hack the Computer for unlimited Chocolate Bars.
  • The horror-based adventure game/first-person shooter/interactive movie Realms of the Haunting has a magic staff which has a very limited number of charges (something like 12 shots or so) and can't be recharged. It isn't noticeably more powerful than the game's other magic weapons, though, so you either never use it anyway, or use all 12 shots then forget about it. Sucks to be you if you did use it up killing common enemies, because it turns out this particular weapon insta-kills the otherwise very tough and annoying final boss.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • The golden chicken in stage 8 of Streets of Rage 4. You could one-hit a mook with it, or try to carry it to the next area (Just drop it if you need to by hitting your item button from a standing position) where it not only does some sizable damage to either of the bosses, you'll get an achievement just for bringing it there once.

    Collectible Card Games 
  • Hearthstone:
    • Deathwing is a minion that, when played, will destroy EVERYTHING on the board on the spot. The catch is that doing so will cost 10 mana (the maximum the game allows at any point), and also discards your entire hand. The only time you will see it getting played is when someone is desperate enough to destroy every other card they have just to wipe out the entire board instantly and hope beyond hope that the opponent doesn't have an effective answer.
    • Zephrys the Great is a card that uses an algorithm to determine what cards will be most perfect for your current situation and gives you one (of your choosing). He's always a good play no matter when you play him, which leads to a lot of players never playing him unless they have nothing else. After all, it's better to use whatever started in your deck, even if it's way less efficient than it is to use Zephyrs and lose his ability to find a different perfect play.
  • Shadowverse: Seer's Globes are used to convert cards to their animated art. Each Globe only animates a single card, meaning you'll need up to 3 to animate a full playset, and they are either rewarded for having a high Master score at the end of a season or available for purchase in extremely limited supply. When they do become available, they are expensive — while the first Globe can be purchased for 5,000 vials, further purchases cost 30,000 vials. note  Their scarcity results in players being unwilling to expend them until they can use it to animate a full playset of their favorite card.

    Fighting Games 
  • In BlazBlue:
    • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger: The Barrier Burst gives you one shot at breaking free of a combo at the cost of lowering your defense for the rest of the round. For new players it is easy to fall into the trap of not using it because "it's not too late, I can still survive this combo and make a comeback—wait, what do you mean I lost?!" A good player has to learn when to bite the bullet and use Barrier Burst effectively.
    • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift and its Updated Rereleases Continuum Shift II and Continuum Shift EXTEND continue this line but separates the Barrier Burst into two different versions (and is also renamed to Break Burst). Additionally, everyone starts with one Break Burst and gains the second one once losing the round. The Break Burst (or at least the original one) will also halve "Guard Primers" needed to block guard-breaking attacks as well. Then we have the "Gold" Burst which can only be performed if the character is not being attacked and will launch the opponent high in the air and allow for follow-up combos. Finally, Astral Heats, already Awesome, but Impractical by nature in all but a handful of select cases, are now tied to the Burst Icons, requiring the use of one to activate on top of all the other required factors, meaning that if the Astral Heat whiffs or is blocked, the player could find themselves in a combo that they would've been able to Burst out of... if only they hadn't gone for the grand finale, to begin with.
    • BlazBlue: Chronophantasma alters the Burst mechanics a bit—instead of being given a set number of Bursts, you have a Burst Meter similar to the game's spiritual precursor Guilty Gear that refills automatically after the Burst is used, though it refills slowly enough that one still has to be careful when deciding to use it or not. In addition to this, however, Gold Bursts have been removed entirely and changed to a new Super Mode mechanic called "Overdrive." Using it also uses up the Burst Meter and forces the player to decide if they want to go on the offensive and use the Overdrive for possible better offensive capabilities or to Burst and break out of any combos the opponent tries. On the plus side, Astral Heats are no longer dependent on Burst.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl:
      • The Golden Hammers can automatically unlock a secret without having to do the challenge. In the few challenges that really are exceptionally difficult (beating Boss Battles on Insane, for example), you can't actually use the hammers in the first place, except in the PAL versions.
      • The heart containers in boss battles. They completely heal you, but there are only three, and they can't be used mid-battle, which often results in death after deciding to try and tank an easy boss at high damage.
    • The Golden Hammer conundrum returns for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. In the 3DS versions, you can get up to nine Golden Hammers, but only 3 are usable on each page (there are 3 pages of 35 challenges and Golden Hammers can only be used on the same page it was unlocked on). The Wii U version only gives you 5 hammers on a single page of 140 challenges. Just like Brawl, there are a few exceptionally difficult challenges that you can't use hammers on (both games have a challenge of beating classic at Intensity 9.0 without losing a stock. Naturally, neither one can be hammered).
  • Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon has a form of this in its Campaign mode. Basically, even if a Mobile Suit you take out for a mission is entirely undamaged during the course of it, once you get back to the map screen it'll still have an arbitrary number of HP depleted, as a deterrent to just taking the same suit out over and over again (much like real-world armored vehicles and jets can't go on more than one mission in a row without maintenance). As such, the titular Super Prototype will almost never be used — taking the Gundam out on a mission, even avoiding all damage, automatically drops it down to 25% health once it's over, which will not be fully repaired until after you complete multiple missions.

    First-Person Shooters 
  • The Diamond tiles from Bookworm are just worth so many points, that using them in almost any situation feels like a waste.
  • Borderlands series:
    • Borderlands 2 has the Golden Keys which unlock the golden chest in Sanctuary. The said chest can dispense items of a purple rarity, but because their stats are based on the current level of the Player Character, they can effectively be obsolete after a while, so some players would tend to save their keys for a high-level character. The keys can only be obtained through preordering the game, purchasing the Mechromancer pack and through codes being periodically distributed on Gearbox's Twitter and Facebook.
    • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! also has golden keys (which have all the perks and drawbacks of the above) but also has a legendary gun, the Excalibastard. This gun is available as a pickup in Stanton's Liver, an area you can get access to roughly 1/8th of the way into the game. The gun has incredible stats for another gun of a similar build and has the special ability of instantly freezing anyone you get a critical hit on and causing them to explode in an ice nova if you melee them to death. The only catch to it is that you can only pick it up once per character. Once you pick it up, it instantly scales to your level. This means that picking it up early would be a huge boon due to being able to wipe the floor with enemies, but the gun will be quickly outclassed. Pick it up later and closer to the max level and you'll probably not have to worry about it being outclassed, but you would have spent nearly the entire game without it.
  • The original Call of Duty has the BAR fall into the exact same situation for the exact same reason. It's accurate and it's powerful, but you only get it in one level, and the ammo you start out with for it is all you get - there are no pickups in the level and none of your exchangeable, replaceable allies use it.
  • In an interesting zigzag, C4 charges late in Command & Conquer: Renegade. Late in the game, there are lots of Nod structures to destroy and Master Control Terminals are ammo sponges if you try to destroy them without C4. The kicker is that the early game swamps Havoc with C4 pickups, but from the middle point and on, they're at more of a premium than half of the BFGs. If you don't want to have a long, tedious and frustrating time in the last two levels, save those puppies as soon as you go through the Bag of Spilling mission.
  • The Earthshaker missiles in Descent II. Easily the most powerful weapon in the game, and can clear out a room of enemies better than anything else, but you'll need most of them for the final boss (due to the way its weakness works making them the only effective weapon against it). Same goes for the Vertigo expansion, and many fan-made level sets, which use the same kind of gimmick for the final boss.
  • Deus Ex Universe:
    • Deus Ex has several examples:
      • The GEP gun is offered as an option to the player at the start of the game. Good enough to take out most bots with one rocket, it takes up a giant 8 out of 30 inventory slots, and ammo for it is relatively rare.
      • HE ammo for the assault rifle later on in the game is partially susceptible to this, as while it offers Heavy Weapon power for a Rifle specialist, it's fairly rare.
      • The Light Anti-tank Weapon is a one-shot rocket launcher that is guaranteed to destroy anything it hits directly, and also probably anything standing nearby. However, because it's only a one-shot gun and takes up four inventory spaces, it's impractical to carry around if you have other rifles or heavy weapons with you. Cue desperate thinking about how best to dispose of it along with some Inventory Tetris. On the bright side, the LAW is almost always found near giant military robots, so if you could spare the space for it you'd certainly have a use for it.
      • LAMs (grenades that can be attached to flat surfaces and then double as proximity mines) are extremely useful for blowing up doors and other barriers or for setting deadly ambushes. However, they are relatively rare, if not as much as some other items. You can use other, easier-to-find explosives like the GEP Gun to reduce the need even more. This can lead to sudden moments of anger when you already have the maximum of 10 LAMs in the inventory and come upon a new one in the field. There actually IS a point in the game where having loaded up on LAMs pays off, though. At a later point, they also pretend you'll need at least 5 of them for a mission (with a character charging you thousands of credits to buy some) but actually, any explosive will work. So in the end, outside that one scene, you'll probably still only use them to lay impressive ambush grids, lure your enemies into that, enjoy the show, then load a savegame and get past the obstacle without wasting LAMs and half an hour of setting them up instead.
    • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution you have multiple contenders for this, and frequently spend Praxis Points upgrading your inventory to keep it all in there.
      • The Heavy Rifle earlier in the game, which is almost useless without error-correcting augs, and later on the laser rifle or grenade launcher. Masses of space, no ammunition for the latter two, and completely unnecessary when you can headshot everyone with a silenced/laser-guided pistol.
      • Those who pre-ordered or bought the applicable DLC pack will experience this through the grenade launcher; it can only be acquired about 2/3 into the plot and eats through boss health, but all ammo for it (save for the six grenades it comes loaded with) must be found, which means most players get little use out of it.
  • Doom:
    • The BFG9000 from all installments is likely to fall under this trope. The player is likely to use the BFG only rarely to save up on ammo better applied in the plasma gun, as each BFG shot costs 40 cells and is overkill against the majority of mooks. The "I can handle these with smaller weapons" effect comes to play, even though in 75% of fights against big groups, you can actually conserve ammo by using the BFG. Doom 3's version of the BFG uses its own unique ammo type, which should make it more viable to use but instead makes it feel even more restrictive despite the game giving plenty of BFG cells from that point on. Doom (2016) made it even worse by making BFG shots into rare pickups and only allowing you to carry 3 at a time- the BFG was also given a unique weapon equip button rather than being on the weapon wheel with all the "common" weapons, emphasizing its status as a special weapon for desperate circumstances rather than something that should be used regularly.
    • Doom 64 has the Unmaker, which shares the same ammo with the BFG, and thus can make one ask themselves if they really need to kill something this desperately. It has no windup time before firing and when fully upgraded with the demon artifacts, can leave a target stunned and dead in seconds, but BFG can be better with ammo efficiency and the BFG's slow, more controllable firing rate means less waste of your precious energy cells if there's enough monsters to saturate with a BFG blast. Fortunately, there are excellent targets of opportunity to save the Unmaker for like Pain Elemental ambushes.
    • Doom³:
      • The Soul Cube does enough damage to one-shot any non-boss monster, refills your health up to 100, and recharges every 5 kills (it even helpfully says "use us" once it's charged). While you could theoretically just use it on every 5th monster you fight, most people still save it for things like Archviles and Hell Knights. In an interesting twist, it is the only way to actually hurt the Cyberdemon, although you are given an endlessly respawning stream of low-end Mooks so you can refill the cube.
      • The trademark Artifact (aka Heart of Hell) from the expansion Resurrection of Evil can stop time, turn the player invincible, and boost the damage of their weapon all at once depending on how many of the Hunter bosses they've killed. It's such a cool effect that the player is commonly tempted to conserve the artifact's energy and rarely use it, even though it can be recharged everywhere. Then again, its power depends on human souls stolen from corpses, so not using the artifact can fall into Video Game Caring Potential.
    • Doom (2016): Similar to its handling of the BFG, the Chainsaw was turned into a special weapon that ran on a limited amount of petrol, rather than the Emergency Weapon it was in previous games. It can One-Hit Kill any non-boss enemy, causing them to explode into a fountain of extra ammo for all your other weapons, but the bigger the enemy the more petrol it needs, compelling you to conserve its use for hairy situations like when a Baron of Hell is about to rip your head off, or simply when you's use up all your other ammo and desperately need the refill.
    • The Crucible in Doom Eternal can one-shot almost any enemy in the game at melee range, no question. However, it's obtained very late in the game, ammo is about as scarce as Argent Cells, and you can only hold 3 charges at a time. It doesn't help it's difficult to use against Doom Hunters and Marauders, and pray a fodder enemy doesn't accidentally stand in your way. The Chainsaw also has a use three times (or once on a big enemy) mechanic, but now it automatically recharges and has more frequent pick ups, moving from out of this trope to the primary means of replenishment by chopping up a small mook leftover from a firefight or taking a big one out of the fight.
  • The Devastator from Duke Nukem 3D is a full-auto, double-barrel rocket launcher that's tiny explosions do as much damage as a single RPG round and can clear out a whole room full of baddies in seconds, but it burns through its ammo supply very quickly and replacement rockets are fairly rare, so most players just hang onto The Devastator until it's time to fight the given episode's boss — which will go down in about 5-10 seconds of sustained fire from it — and substitute it for the more ubiquitous RPG when they need heavy firepower.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon. The first game suffers from a form of this, where the three-weapon limit to the player's inventory meant that the rarer, more powerful weapons, like the multi-rocket launcher or the repeating cannon were often just left in favor of something simpler with more readily available ammo, which tends to be an assault rifle and the VK-12 shotgun.
  • Half-Life:
    • Half-Life: The Gluon Gun wastes away enemies with ease, even bosses, but drains your Nuclear Ammo extremely fast, so instead you end up picking and prodding at the enemies with your pistol.
    • Half-Life 2 turns the .357 Magnum into this: the gun can one-shot all infantry enemies if you hit them in the head, but you can only carry a maximum of 18 bullets at a time and ammo pickups average about one per level. It doesn't help that the MP7 and Combine Pulse Rifle work in mid-range, the shotgun does close-range, and the crossbow does precision long-range shots. Everything the Magnum could do is done by something else that gets more ammo with fewer headaches. That said, you'll want to pull it out occasionally, just so you don't have to deal with the cognitive dissonance of having to waste ammo by leaving it behind when you do find it because you're already at capacity.
  • Halo:
    • The Spartan Laser in Halo 3's campaign. It will kill almost anything in the game with one or two hits, can hit multiple targets at once, and it's also really cool. The problem is, it takes a few seconds to charge up so it's a little hard to actually hit something, it only has five shots and can't be reloaded, and you only get one two or three times in the entire campaign (and one of those times, you get it for the sole purpose of killing 343 Guilty Spark). So, you probably won't be using it much.
    • Halo 5: Guardians's REQ system lets players purchase packs with random weapons, vehicles, power-ups, etc. But all the items are single-use, and the only guarantee that you'll get more in the future is if you unlock a Certification for that specific item. Unlocked a single Prophet's Bane sword with bonus invisibility, a Nornfang sniper rifle with a bonus damage boost, or a heavily armored and armed ONI vehicle? Without certification, you might not see another for a very long time, and that rare REQ may end up instantly stolen, too late in the game to use, too high of a learning curve, or just plain bad luck... yup, it stays in the inventory forever.
  • Left 4 Dead:
    • First aid kits, even more so on Expert. Sometimes, people will absolutely refuse to use first aid to heal and will either be popping pills or just limp on and will only use first aid when the next knockdown is going to cause death. It's a common tactic on Expert to kill someone yourself so they can respawn with more health and save a kit.
    • The sequel, Left 4 Dead 2, includes the M60, grenade launcher, and chainsaw which are all very rare and come with limited ammo that cannot be refilled. There's also bile bombs and adrenaline shots, both of which are rare drops. Bile bombs can draw zombies away or even turn them on each other for a long duration, making them valuable during hordes, while adrenaline shots are the only thing in the game that gives a speed boost and negate both fatigue and the zombies' slow-down attack. You can only carry one at a time, and it also means you cannot carry other kinds of bombs or pills (which are much more abundant). Thankfully, the areas where you must use these items are usually very obvious, but in certain maps (such as The Parish) where these locations are at the very end of the map, you're stuck holding onto them for several areas and unable to switch out.
  • Marathon trilogy
    • The dual shotguns of the latter two installments, which would use up even a maxed-out load of ammo in a matter of seconds (and one ammo pickup contains only 2 shells, the same amount you use up for one shot from the single shotgun). And reduce anything in the game to a bloody pulp even faster.
    • The flechette gun from the third game also qualifies. It is more powerful than the assault rifle and way more accurate, it works in a vacuum, and it's the only weapon (apart from fists) working underwater. Unfortunately, it burns through magazines faster than any other weapon (and you can hold only 8 reloads) and ammo pickups are quite rare.
  • The Browning Automatic Rifle in the Medal of Honor games packs a punch and has great accuracy at long range, but has very limited ammo (practically no pickups). You can get by with an SMG in most situations.
  • In Metro 2033, military-grade rounds serve this function for the first 2/3s of the game. They provide a welcome edge against tougher mutants like Black Librarians but are also the game's money system – meaning if you want that tricked out Kalash 2012 that's only available in Polis Station, you'd better choose your priorities. They lose this status toward the end of the game, where there are no more stores and powerful mutants are ubiquitous, so you can feel free to put them to good use.
  • The Unreal Tournament Game Mod Operation Na Pali has two examples:
    • The Translocator. You find it halfway through the game and it's essential both in order to progress as well as for secret hunting. Then 3/4 through the game you're imprisoned again and lose it alongside the rest of your weaponry.
    • Lastly, the Instagib Rifle. You only find halfway through one level, the remains of the Vortex Rikers, and works exactly like it did in the base game, being a One-Hit Kill Shock Rifle. You're even given a chance to experience that power when a horde of Skaarj Lords appear in the ship. Then you're imprisoned and stripped off your weaponry again at the end of the level, and never get to use that weapon again.
  • Painkiller has the Black Tarot system where you may equip two passive bonuses and three temporary bonuses that are only effective when you activate them. A player may ask themselves if the situation is really desperate enough to justify using the equipped temporary bonuses but fortunately, there are cards that you may equip if you want to make the system more flexible. One passive option lets you activate your bonuses up the three times per level (this one can easily break the game) and another can be equipped in a temporary slot to extend the time of your temporary card by an additional twenty seconds (on top of the baseline thirty seconds). Thus, in an inversion of this trope, a player may find their tarot cards "too awesome to ignore". That being said, unlocking some of the cards requires that you complete some very difficult challenges.
  • In Pathways into Darkness, the Black Crystal is the most powerful of the magic crystals, instantly petrifying nearby enemies, but it breaks after just seven uses, so it is best saved for the Greater Nightmares wave of the Multi-Mook Melee that comes shortly after you find it.
  • PAYDAY: The Heist has doctor bags, which fully restores your health and resets the number of incapacitations you received. Because a doctor bag has limited supplies, players commonly wait until they are on their last knockdown before healing. PAYDAY 2 has the same restrictions, but they are eased with the first aid kits which give a full heal while not resetting the knockdown counter. They can also be made more useful with upgrades, allowing a maximum of five uses from a bag in the first game or two separate bags with four uses each in the second. Some levels will have items that act as doctor bags, and you can also purchase a basic doctor bag spawn in every level in addition to bringing your own.
  • Postal 2:
    • The Apocalypse Weekend DLC has the Nuclear Launcher, which some might only use on the final boss since its ammo only shows up in one place (unless you use cheats).
    • Paradise Lost has another of its own in the Revolver. More accurate and far more powerful than the default pistol, or even the assault rifle, and has a secondary fire mode that can One-Hit Kill any enemy in the game. It and its ammo are also extremely rare, with only two pickups at the start of the game, only one or two more being added per day and its ammo not available from vendors until Thursday (four-fifths of the way through the game), and on top of that, the secondary fire requires you to build up a meter by making kills with regular shots first. On top of that, there are some enemies, including most bosses, who are immune to the secondary fire.
  • The Quake series outside of the multiplayer modes, as well as Quake III: Arena and Quake Champions have the powerups.
    • In Quake there's the powerup pickups[[name]]Quad Damage, Ring of Shadows, Biosuit and Pentagram of Protection; Scourge of Armagon adds the Wetsuit and Empathy Shield; and Dissolution of Eternity adds the Anti-Grav Belt and the Power Shield[[/name]]. They give the player an enormous upper hand for half a minute, such as damage output (Quad Damage), damage protection (Biosuit, Pentagram of Protection, Scourge of Armagon's Wetsuit and Empathy Shield, and Dissolution of Eternity's Power Shield) or another advantage (Invisibility in the Ring of Shadows' case; while the Anti-Grav Belt from Dissolution of Eternity allows the players to float in the air). The problem is that they are activated on pickup, meaning that you need to take advantage of these items the moment they're activated or you'll waste them.
    • Quake II turns the powerupsnote  into inventory items, meaning you can activate them whenever you want to use them. However, they're so powerful and you fight off so few enemies at once in the levels, you'll keep the things in reserve throughout the game until the final boss. Plus, in the harder difficulty levels, you can only carry one of each item at a time. The awesome part? When used together, they turn the game into a joke. It doesn't help that the game throws Quad Damages at you, making you feel kinda guilty for hoarding the two little Quads you found in the first hub throughout the whole game.
  • Serious Sam's "I win" weapon is the Serious Bomb, which kills every enemy in an area, no matter how much health they have and it can be activated by merely pressing a button. Because of how powerful and handy it is, you'll usually be keeping it in reserve "in case" throughout the game. Serious Sam 2 and Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter makes this even worse because you have to take it out as a regular weapon before using it, meaning that even if you do want to use it, you'll have to determine if you have enough time or space to take the thing out and use it without being mauled, and by that time you've probably managed to thin out the horde enough so that you don't need the Serious Bomb anymore. On the plus side, Serious Bombs are the only weapon other than the knife and revolver that aren't taken away at the end of a chapter.
  • Shadow of the Wool Ball: The Golden Shotgun is the most powerful weapon in the game, but its corresponding ammunition is scarce and most of it is hidden in secret areas, so you'll probably hold off using it on non-boss enemies.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl:
    • The game has several special weapons that can be found once and only once. Typically they have something that sets them above their normal counterparts. Problem is, the game has weapon degradation, and - if left unmodded - no way of repairing damaged items. This is why many players save up the special weapons, only to find out later on that they become useless against the heavily armored foes of the later game, who require heavier firepower to be brought down.
    • RPGs. As with all weapons in the game, they are really powerful, and thus (as the game's only rocket launcher) far deadlier than any other weapon you can acquire. The problem? The launcher alone takes up about 20% of your equally realistically limited carrying weight, and ammo is virtually nonexistent in the game: there are maybe three rockets you can find in the entire game, and that's if you really take the time to look.
  • System Shock 2 has Disruption Grenades, which are great against powerful enemies but always in short supply. Energy weapons, power armor, and implants could also qualify after a certain point, as there's an entire level full of powerful enemies and no rechargers at all, which can lead you to set aside some of your most effective gear because you're afraid of it running out of power and becoming useless.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • Medics can, over the course of about 2 minutes, charge up ten seconds of invulnerability called an ÜberCharge. Of course, this leads to the age-old dilemma of when you actually use your ÜberCharge... Saving it can be vital, as beginning it mere seconds before the enemy initiates theirs will make it all but obsolete. So you often end up waiting so long to initiate an ÜberCharge that you are killed before you can, and "drop" your Über.
      • Avoiding this mindset is also the most common advice given by and to Medic mains, as it's generally seen as better to "waste" an Über and start building the next one than to die while fully charged. "Pop it, don't drop it."
    • This also applies to any of the various Limit Breaks that must be charged up by doing damage, healing teammates, or getting kills, like the Phlogistinator, Diamondback, or Buff Banner.
  • Turok:
    • The first three games all feature a superweapon that the player must rebuild by collecting parts hidden in secret areas (the first game actually has two superweapons, but only one must be built). All four of these guns can clear entire rooms of enemies with one shot, but two of them carry only tiny amounts of incredibly rare ammunition (the Fusion Cannon having a total of eight rounds in the entire game), and another, the Chronoscepter, is limited to only three shots that can never be refilled without cheats. The worst part of this comes when the player realizes that the final boss of Turok 2 is actually completely immune to the ammo-starved Nuke superweapon and that saving those precious few shots accomplished nothing.
    • Turok: Evolution multiplayer and single-player gave us the Rocket Launcher's Nuke Attachment. Nuke clears out the room, but then you would rather use them on That One Level or That One Boss.
  • Unreal has several of the limited-time inventory items, some of which can be turned on/off and are worn off after being usednote , while others expire upon being usednote . Two items are of special note: the Jump Boots: they can't be turned off, and the three available charges expire after 30 seconds even if you don't use them; while the Energy Amplifier dramatically increases the damage output of the ASMD and Dispersion Pistol, but lasts 10 seconds. Lastly there's the Searchlight: a more powerful, almost infinite version of the Flashlight, but which you can only find in the level "The Darkening", near the end of the game, and is only meaningful in said level.
  • In Wolfenstein (2009) the powerful experimental weapons you acquire early will have very little ammo available for scrounging until the weapons themselves become plentiful in the hands of the enemy. On the other hand, the Thule Medallion that gives you mystical powers appears even earlier, and energy refills are literally everywhere. Of course, the Medallion is an integral part of the game and story and you need to use it no matter what.

    Flight Games 
  • In Dragon Strike, the only way to heal yourself is with an Ointment of Keogh which restores anywhere from miniscule to moderate amount of health per use. Unfortunately these are only available as mission rewards so they're very rare. Additionally if you wish to join higher ranks of knighthood, you must sacrifice items to the order. If you don't have some Ointments to give away, to join you might be forced to trade in a nice permanent magical item like a magical sword.

    Four X 
  • The console-only (later ported to iOS) game Civilization Revolution gives you an ICBM once you build the Manhattan Project wonder. Unlike a typical Civilization nuke, this one can reach any city and wipe it off the face of the map without leaving any fallout. However, it's a unique unit that you only get once per game. You probably will end up not using it until the game ends.
  • In Galactic Civilizations 2, it is possible to "get lucky" and find a rare Precursor battleship early on which is generally much stronger than anything currently out there. However, between fleet limits (a player at that point can generally only afford to field only that ship in a given battle) and a rather adaptive A.I., those ships may be held in reserve until they get surpassed by normal researched ships. Ironically, though, with the proper civilization traits, one can end up finding quite the number of such ships very early on.
  • In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, the ultimate weapon is the Planet Buster, a nuclear warhead that will crater a city (and most of the surrounding area) with the push of a button. You can even build one as early as the mid-game, but odds are you won't ever use it. Why? If you fire one, then you're expelled from the Planetary Council, and you will be in a permanent state of war with all the other factions. In addition, a Planet Buster will cause massive ecological damage, so the native Mind Worms will go bug nuts on you too.
  • In 4X game Space Empires V there is a special Ancient Ruins tech you may find if you colonize a planet, called Shield Imploder. It will bring down the enemy shields and cause damage to the enemy ship (Best description is the Breen weapon in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), however, it is rather weak at first, but eventually, it will destroy with one shot ships relying on shields. So you end up keeping it secret so as not to let other players know you have it. A game can actually end before you get to the stage where it is a one-shot kill weapon. Meanwhile, it would have been quite good as it is to instantly remove enemy shields if you hadn't wanted to keep it a secret for later.
  • In X3: Terran Conflict, you acquire the Xperimental Shuttle from X: Beyond the Frontier at the end of a plot chain. It's the second-fastest M3 and has 200 MJ of shielding. It's also one of two ships that can never be reverse-engineered (barring mods or cheating). You'll either tuck it someplace safe and never touch it, or use it very sparingly as a personal yacht.

    Hack & Slash 
  • Unlike its spiritual predecessor above, Dante's Inferno is incredibly stingy when it comes to using your Redemption due to the rate of Redemption regeneration being directly correlated to your combo lengths. Moreover, you can't turn it off once you turn it on (a lesson God of War learned years ago), and you can only use it once you completely fill at least one tier on the potentially three-tier meter. If playing on Infernal difficulty, you will use your Redemption twice over the course of the game, and both times are against incredibly cheap bosses. For all practical purposes, your real berserk meter might as well be your mana Divine Armor meter.
  • The Devil May Cry series have the Gold Orbs (prior to Devil May Cry 5 at least), Vital Stars, Devil Stars, etc. All of which can fall under this trope. The main reason for this is that while you can buy them forever, the price of each item INCREASES each time you buy, making players hesitant as to whether they should use the item on That One Boss or save it for a later difficulty.
  • Diablo:
    • In Diablo II the jewels and runes are items that can be put into special "socketed" items for stat bonuses, but can only be used once. They are just rare enough, and special items with stat bonuses drop regularly enough, that it makes one hesitant to use them instead of just waiting for another special item to drop.
    • For the longest time, perfect gems were the currency of choice in multiplayer games. This is due to the game suffering from Money for Nothing.
  • God of War has the Rage of the Gods. It takes maybe an hour or two of killing enemies to fill it up all the way, and once you activate it, you have about 10 seconds of mauling everything within 20 feet of you before it's gone. It can't be turned off if you activate it by accident either.
  • In Path of Exile, a Mirror of Kalandra is the rarest currency in the entire game. Just to give a reference of how rare it is, Exalted Orbs, the next most valuable standard currency, are rare enough that a player playing all the way through post-game can naturally find about 1 to 3 of them on average. A Mirror of Kalandra is worth about several hundred of them. It's valuable enough to buy every unique itemnote  in the game, at least twice over. When used, it creates a duplicate of any non-unique equipment. The currency is extremely valuable as is, but you also need find an extremely powerful gear worth using it on in the first place. Most people will just trade a Mirror for currency, and only the richest, most hardcore crafters will ever use a Mirror.

    Massively Multiplayer Online RPG 
  • Aion has this in spades with the Spiritmaster class, who specializes in the summons and in heaping effects on the enemy. Most of the Spiritmaster's spells are rather normal... and then there's the Cursecloud spell, an area - of - effect spell which has a cooldown of one hour, deals fair initial damage, but shines because it snaps away a good chunk of an afflicted unit's health whenever it casts a spell. Since not all enemies cast spells or have enough HP to require percentage damage, very few situations where Cursecloud is viable exist.
  • Aside from the various rare and powerful items that players might be tempted to hoard, Aura Kingdom interestingly uses this trope as the reason why the Big Bad Reinhardt came to being in the first place. He was a devout knight serving the bishop who had a miraculous artifact that could restore someone to perfect health even if they were inches from death. However, when Reinhardt's wife was ill with a seemingly incurable illness, the bishop justified his unwillingness to use the artifact to cure her with this trope, believing the artifact should only be used to help save someone powerful and influential who was aiding with the fight against the darkness. When Reinhardt's beloved wife passed away, his anger and resentment toward what he thought was an avoidable tragedy led him to rebel and become the nation's biggest threat.
  • Billy vs. SNAKEMAN has Consumable Kaiju Drops. They are moderately rare items that give a small bonus as long as you have at least one in your inventorynote  but a massive bonus if you consume one. Naturally, the consumption bonuses of such items are far less than the cost of obtaining them.
  • City of Heroes:
    • There are several temp powers with a limited amount of use, many of which are earned for or after a specific mission and will never be retrievable again. Not surprisingly, these usually get hoarded for emergencies and are still waiting to be used when your own powers are so far beyond them that there's no point anymore. In some cases they don't make any sense using even when you do get them, a classic example being the Loa Bone, which lets you summon a zombie. Cool for most people, utterly redundant if you are a Mastermind who can already summon zombies.

      Some of these temp powers became so popular that when the developers added Veteran Rewards, a shiny badge for every so many month the player has been subscribed plus an item like a special costume item or a free character rebuild, two of the rewards each gave a choice of two temp powers that would become permanent on that character. The player can make different choices of which powers to take on every character they have. The Sands of Mu and the Nemesis Staff are the two most popular choices.
    • The Wedding Band hero-side springs first to mind. It granted a hefty resistance buff to all damage that lasted for two total hours of on-time (and maybe required an hour to get). Since it was only available to heroes, it quickly became the major target of villains and a fair issue of player-versus-player balance. The "Echo" version of the power now gives the same level of protection, but only lasts five minutes on time, but can be stacked with the original version.
    • Similarly, there's the Inspirations you build up as you play, basically the equivalent of potions in other MMORPGs that can be used at any time to heal health, restore endurance, or give a number of beneficial buffs. The thing is, you rarely need to use them to win most fights so the tray quickly fills up with Inspirations you hang on to for tougher fights and emergencies that never come.
    • Many of the high-level powers take so long to recharge you can't use them in 99% of the fights. For example, an area-of-effect attack that lowers the defense, damage resistance, and health regeneration of all enemies caught in the blast? Awesome. Too bad it has a several-minute recharge, and at the higher levels you tend to breeze through foes anyway, so the effect would barely be noticeable. Later on, many of the new sets had their "Tier 9" power not as Totally awesome but use much more often.
  • EVE Online has several extremely limited-run ships that were/are only handed out as a result of one-time events, such as the Alliance Tournaments. Since being able to say that you destroyed one of the five, say, Imperial Issue Apocalypses in existence is cause for immense bragging rights, the result is that these ships sit in their owners' hangars, never actually being flown.
  • The original release of EverQuest had "The Aegis of Life" — a (then) high-end shield for clerics that required an extended camp.note  The shield had immense (for the era) AC, but also had a single expendable charge of "Complete Heal" built into it. The perfect way to heal a tank in a dire raid emergency. And nobody ever, ever, ever used it, because clerics had "Complete Heal" as a regular spell anyway, and there's always another raid...
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy XI is absolutely the king of this trope. Most items are extremely painful to get in this game and many of them are single-time use only. Many of the items below were extremely powerful when they were made available; their use has diminished somewhat since the level cap raise.
      • Phantom Tathlum — mediocre one-time use multi-class throwing weapon that is dropped by a Notorious Monster (NM). The only reason to own this item is the rather useful +2 INT that it provides when equipped in the throwing slot. To spawn the NM, one must trade an iron ore (uncommon item) to a ??? marker that randomly pops up in a high-level zone every 15 minutes. The item drops approximately 15% of the time. Woe be to you if you accidentally push the "Use Ranged Weapon" button.
      • Ambrosia — this nectar of the gods provides +7 to all stats for 4 hours. To obtain this item one needs to a) travel to a specific zone to kill enemies that have a 5% chance of dropping a specific craft item, b) travel to vendors that may or may not sell specific crafting supplies based on whether players control certain regions in the game, c) have nearly 100 cooking skill, d) cook a Cursed Soup item, e) travel to a high-level end-game zone where a Notorious Monster spawns every 2~6 hours and has a 33% chance to drop a 'Oblation Abjuration' item, f) give the abjuration and cursed soup to an NPC to receive the "Ambrosia" item. The item buffs used to not persist through death.
      • Amrita — a drink which restores 500HP over 5 minutes. Follows the exact same creation process as Ambrosia.
      • The Abyssea expansions have Primeval Brew, an Abyssea-only one-use item that boosts all your attributes to 999, your HP and MP to 9999, gives you a 500 point HP and MP restoration and 50% TP every three seconds. The downside: It costs two million cruor (An abyssea-only currency that can't be traded for and is usually only gained in small amounts) to buy just one three minute dose. However, it goes from Too Awesome to Use to Awesome, but Impractical once you defeat the final boss of the Abyssea expansions, when you receive a key item that drops the cost to a somewhat more palatable 200000 cruor. To put the Brew's power in perspective though: With normal abyssea buffs, an average damage-dealing job can do 3000-6000 damage with one weapon skill on a normal opponent. With a Brew-buffed Corsair with an Armageddon, one can do 75000 to 99999 damage with one weaponskill. And with the 50% TP/3 second gain, one can perform a weapon skill every six seconds.
    • Final Fantasy XIV dips in and out of this trope.
      • Certain abilities were like this simply because their long cooldown times made it only suitable in "oh crap" moments. An example is the White Mage's Benediction which fully heals someone instantly. It had such a long cool down that it wasn't practical to drop it on a whim. But the cooldown was reduced to 3 minutes, allowing it to come up more than once in a given dungeon battle.
      • Zigzagged with the ability Swiftcast depending on the job. Healers will save Swiftcast because in combination with Raise/resurrection/Ascend, it allows one to skip the 8 second cast time. Black Mages will drop this every chance they get, because it means one less spell they have to wait to cast. Summoners and possibly Red Mages may save this to instant cast Ressurection/Verraise, but otherwise half the time they have instant-casting anyway.
      • At the beginning of 2.0, X-Potions, X-Ethers, and Hi-Elixirs were difficult to obtain and craft, but as time went on, not only they were easier to get, but stronger potions were made in later patches.
      • A lot of gear used for glamouring purposes tend to be hard to craft, which drives up their prices in the player market, but over time, the items are easier to make and the prices fall.
      • Deep Dungeons. The Palace of the Dead has the Pomander of Rage, an item that transforms the user into a manticore and lets them become a One-Hit Kill machine to everything except bosses. Because RNG is fickle, you may barely get any, which causes people to either save them in a dire emergency or use them in conjunction with the Pomander of Fortune, which boosts the drop rate of coffers left behind by defeated enemies. However since a lot people do Palace of the Dead simply to grind floors 41-50 for experience and that the Pomander of Rage is useless on bosses, if the party still has some in their inventory towards the end of the run, they'll pop it anyway since they'll lose it once they're done.
      • Heaven-on-High introduces new pomanders, such as one that gives every enemy a temporary One-Hit Kill debuff, petrifying them and allowing them to be killed in one shot, and also introducing consumable Magicite that can summon Primals to kill EVERYTHING on that floor. Then there's the Odin Magicite which can one-shot BOSSES.
      • Eureka Orthos continues the trend, introducing the Protomander of Dread, which is effectively Palace of the Dead's Rage and Lust combined into one. Protomanders of Lethargy will reduce the attack speed of all enemies to such an extent that even their split-second abilities take seconds to cast. Then finally, the Protomander of Storms reduces every enemy's HP to 1. If an enemy has not been aggroed and if the floor does not block HP regeneration, they'll slowly regain their HP back anyway. Not to mention the Onion Knight Demiclone, which summons a friendly NPC with damage that almost outmatches yours, making it good for bosses. And it heals you.
      • Although not a stat-enhancing or curing item, the game has an item called Fantasia to let you change your character's appearance through the character editor. You get two for free and a third one for having the Deluxe version of Heavensward. The rest you have to pay $10 a piece. That might be enough to convince people to not use their Fantasias or at least their last free one.
      • There are also some dyes used to color pieces of equipment. Some of them are hard to find due to needing to get lucky with a retainer venture returning with it or grinding out tokens to purchase it. Others you have to buy from game's cash shop. And due to how the glamour system works, you may end up losing an item dyed with said colors rather easily.
      • Eureka and Bozja's respective consumable abilities. Eureka's logograms can be used to gain powerful Logos Actions that will require you to either use a super rare logogram or burn through multiple weaker ones to even get a chance at getting what you're going for. Bozja's Forgotten Fragments, especially ones dropped in the final instance of Bozja at a low quantity, can give extraordinarily powerful buffs, such as one that increases the damage of DPS classes by 65% while reducing incoming damage by 10% for 50 seconds. Either you spend your time playing through an instance that takes minutes to get that, or you can buy one from other players for a considerably high cost.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: Many, many one-use items, especially the ones that were available for a limited time in the past and most likely will never become available again.
    • Many of the semi-rares fall prey to this trope prior to Fernswarthy's Basement, where every little bit of stockpiled resistance and HP buff becomes more and more necessary. The items you receive as rewards while diving Fernswarthy's do qualify, though.
    • Frosty's Iceball is an interesting variation. It does a large amount of elemental damage, even if you're low-level, and it isn't lost when used...the first two times. If you use it three times in one day, it vanishes. Getting it back is possible, but difficult since it's a 20%-chance-drop from a certain boss in a multiplayer dungeon. The risk of accidentally destroying it by using it one too many times is a pretty strong deterrent against using it at all.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online occasionally gives consumable items as quest rewards or as part of the in-game lotteries that are bound (can't be sold or traded) and give a significant benefit (stat boosts, or increasing the amount of XP you earn or counting each kill as double for slayer deeds) for a strictly limited time. In most cases you can buy more of these in the Turbine Store, but in practice, you're usually better advised to save your turbine points for stuff that's even better, like items that permanently boost your stats. Limited inventory space does help provide an impetus to actually use the items while they still confer a significant bonus, though (+150 HP is a game-changer when you normally have a couple hundred; by the time you reach the level cap it's a pretty pathetic tank who isn't boasting at least 10k).
  • Lucent Heart has two different healer type skills that are this. While they do boost damage by a sizeable chunk, they do not increase defense, have lengthy cooldowns, and force the user into melee. This is impractical for such classes.
  • In Marvel Heroes, various heroes' ultimate skills take a long time to recharge, up to 20 minutes. You aren't just gonna use Deadpool's Server Lag to annihilate this group of mooks right? Definitely not even on this sub-boss or elite mob. Maybe not even against this stage's boss, what if you'll need it for the next one?
  • (Literal) Easter Eggs in Nexus War, because they can only be found once a year, at Easter, and have variable effects that can't be determined before use. Later versions did this with Valentine's Day gifts as well.
  • RuneScape:
    • The Tiger Shark, one of the most powerful pieces of food in the game. It heals more Hit Points than any other fishnote  and it can even boost your life above its normal maximum. Of course, it can only be obtained with a near-maxed fishing level, requires a near-maxed cooking level to be edible, can't be traded with other players, and it's very rare, obtainable only through the Fishing Trawler minigame at an average catch rate of roughly one tiger shark for every hour of trawling.
    • The Ancient Warriors' equipment used to be this. While chaotic weaponry and Nex armor surpass or at least rival them, Ancient Warriors' equipment has been around much longer. Ironically, the armor regained some popularity when they are given high damage soaking, as while they degrade into dust very quickly, individually they are cheaper than Nex armor and is less of a loss in high stakes PvP.
    • In the "Sizzling Summer" promotion, players who had membership during a certain time period could redeem their fate cards for up to four extremely useful items, particularly the instant-kill darts, which could only be used on NPCs. The special items were removed from the game at the beginning of 2013.
      • Since then there have been more events where the Deathtouched dart can be obtained, and in 2018 a new store was added that sometimes sells them for 5 million coins each.
  • Prior to the Generation 6 update, SD Gundam Capsule Fighter had the OC 100% chip, which allowed players to level up their units to the next Over Custom level without fail, though only to OC 5. However, you could only obtain them via giveaways and events, so you'd only get 2-3 at a time and with dozens of Mobile Suits...
    • There's also the special attacks all the Mobile Suits get. They're powerful attacks that let you take out a weaker opponent in one good hit or cut down an opponent's life a good deal. However, using it and missing cuts out a third of your special bar, forcing you to rebuild it to use it again, and using it and connecting wipes out the entire bar, forcing you to rebuild it to restore your skills. Most players tend to keep it until they're down to their last sliver of health.
  • World of Warcraft has a lot of items like this, though Blizzard eventually changed them to be unreliable or useless against enemies over a certain level. Fortunately, many of them can still be sold to players that have fewer doubts about using them in a tight situation.
    • The Holy Mightstone, an artifact that a level 50 paladin receives at the completion of a lengthy quest chain. It provides a 10-minute buff to damage vs. undead when used, but it can only be used once and can never be replaced since it's a quest item, so the end result is that most paladins end up never using it. Sadly it's fallen victim to power growth in expansions. At level 60 it would turn you into a death-machine by practically doubling your offensive stats. At level 80 - not so much. It gives the same boost, but by now it's a 5-10% power-up at most.
    • Super Sticky Glue is an item you get from a quest in the Orc starting zone that allows you to immobilize the target. People always hang onto them in case they would ever really need one.
    • A similar case with the unique "Light of Elune" potion (which grants full invulnerability for 10 sec and then it's gone forever). You get it as a mid-20s quest reward; people still have it in their LVL 70 character's inventory.
    • A lot of the abilities with cooldowns over 5 minutes are seldom used except in times of utter desperation, waiting for that right moment... and sometimes in a dungeon or battleground run, never used at all. e.g. "Lay on Hands" (paladin) or "Recklessness" (warrior). Acknowledging this trope, Blizzard changed many of these skills to be somewhat less awesome, but with more manageable cooldowns, generally with the thought in mind that they should be available for every fight exactly once. Especially notable would be Shield Wall, a survival cooldown for warriors that used to have a 30-minute cooldown and make the user nearly invincible for its duration. Now it can be used every few minutes and still provides a significant damage reduction. Few abilities still exceed 10 minutes cooldown at this point, and many of those can be reduced significantly by talents.
    • Flasks used to be like this in the original game. While they provided outlandish buffs (such as increasing player health by 1200, which for most classes meant a 30% increase in HP - an incredible amount, particularly for boss fights), they were also notoriously difficult to craft. Obviously, you needed to be a high-level alchemist (which in itself wasn't that big of a deal — many players would grind alchemy as it provided access to expendable mana and health potions). However, crafting flasks also required Black Lotus, a ludicrously rare herb (initially at any time there was a maximum of four in the entire game, up to one in each of the zones they could spawn) that wasn't tradeable: you had to find it yourself (good luck!) and in order to be able to gather it, you had to be a maxed-out herbalist. Since herbalism was considered a primary profession (of which you could only have two), if you choose any combination of professions other than "herba-alchy", you could not make flasks, period. To top off the ignominy, flasks could only be made in one place in the entire world (later two), which was smack at the end of a high-level dungeon. When C'Thun was first killed, most of the player community had problems wrapping their minds around the fact that the victorious guild expended forty flasks on this single boss fight.
  • zOMG! has the power-ups (Superchargers to restore partial health & stamina, and Ring Polishers to temporarily increase the strength of your rings). Players get a couple of these from early quests in order to try them out. You can buy more, but the cost is in Gaia Cash, which requires spending real money (as opposed to Gaia Gold, which you can earn in at least a hundred different ways). Therefore, the power-ups earned as quest rewards can become Too Awesome to Use. Recent updates have attempted to mitigate this: power-ups are now rare loot drops, and power-ups bought from the store can be resold on the site's marketplace, which uses Gaia Gold as its currency.

  • This is a defining rule of the MOBA genre; any player character with a single big ability that comes with a long cooldown will always suffer from this. Many players would rather let themselves or an ally die than use these abilities in any situation other than a 5v5 team fight - indeed, part of the genre's massive learning curve is figuring out which situations it's okay to use a two or more minute cooldown ultimate in.
  • On a similar note, we have League of Legends's Flash, a summoner spell available to all champions. It is basically a short-range Flash Step with a lot of utility, and it's a given that most summoners will equip it due to League's emphasis on positioning (it is rare to see a side with less than 4 players using Flash). But on the flip side, it has a higher cooldown than most champions' ultimate abilities, and so it runs into the same problems of players saving the ability for 'the right moment'. All too often players will use Flash only after any advantage of doing so has been long lost. In fact, Flash is considered so valuable (both offensively and defensively) that forcing your opponent to use theirs without having to expend too much for it (most commonly your own Flash) is considered a win; ganking an opponent and forcing them to blow their Flash to escape is considered a "successful gank", even if they lost nothing else (usually because you can come back for a second gank while their Flash is still down and you have yours).

    Platform Game 
  • Bunny Must Die has both Bunny and Chelsea dolls. Bunny dolls are optional uses when Bunny bites the big one and can reload the entire room with Bunny at full health. Chelsea dolls are automatically used when Chelsea gets slagged, and restore Chelsea to full health and mana. Naturally, players will preserve as many of both of these as possible for the final boss battles in each game — Chelsea for Bunny, and Septentrion and Bunny and Dechronos for Chelsea.
  • Jak and Daxter:
    • In the second and third games, it took so long to charge up your Dark Eco meter to use your Dark Jak Super Mode, and you could use up your entire meter in one kill-everything-on-the-screen spray of purple lightning. As a result, it was extremely rare that you'd bother using either...until the end of Jak 3, in which the last few levels end boss was kind enough to provide Light and Dark vents, permitting you to Super Mode with impunity.
    • The same applied in the second game to the Peace Maker, a BFG lightning-death-cannon-thing due to its extremely low ammo capacity. The third game could hold double that when fully upgraded, making Peace Maker sustainable to use, but since purple ammo is now shared by Mass Inverter and Supernova, which uses 10 shots, it is the last one that won't see much use.
  • Kirby:
    • Rare single-use copy abilities like Mike and Crash are somewhere between this and the opposite problem. They can completely clear the screen of enemies, but Crash only has a single use, while Mike is weaker but has three uses. Most of the enemies are weak and uncommon enough that you don't really need to use them, while bosses have Contractual Boss Immunity, so many players prefer to keep them for mid-bosses, where they're most effective.
    • In The Arena and its related modes (except True Arena), you're given a small number of Maxim Tomatoes between boss fights, which can fully heal you. The issue comes from deciding how to use them; if you're low on health, should you have one right now, or wait for a tougher boss where you'll really need it? Most players choose the latter, and sometimes overestimate how much damage they can take.
  • In The Lost Vikings and its sequel you can find an item that kills every enemy on the screen. However, this item rarely comes into play as you can usually take out your enemies easily enough with your normal attacks.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man 9 gives us a few of these, with shop items that are expensive, or of which you can only have one at a time. Eddie Call can give you items, including 1-ups. The M-Tank acts like Final Fantasy's Elixers: it refills your Hit Points and all your Weapon energy. But the biggest user of this trope has to be the Guard Power. It grants double armor for 1 level, but though you'd be tempted to use it against the Bio-Devil twins, you'd be far better off using it against the final level's Boss Rush and Wily's 3-stage battle.
    • In Mega Man X3 you have the option to call in Zero to replace you. He has a few benefits on X, especially at first, but with two major drawbacks; if he dies, you cannot call him in again, and you can't use him for boss battles. Outside of one, anyway, which is how X gets access to the sword for his own use.
    • Mega Man Zero's Cyber Elf system prior to Zero 3. Offering tons of one-use power-ups that have a personality and die once you complete a level.
  • The Grenades in Metal Slug are rather powerful. You'll want to keep them the first time you play the game, thinking you're going to find a good use for all that power... The game soon obliges, and you'll usually end up wasting those grenades when you get killed. Of course, you get a fresh set on your next life, and hopefully a little extra insight on how things work in the game.
  • Ratchet & Clank:
    • The first game had the cost of ammo taking a much bigger share of your funds than the subsequent games and ammo crates were less frequent, meaning some of the more expensive weapons such as Devastator and especially Visibomb Gun could become this if the segment you were on had a low number (if any) of ammo crates.
    • The ammo for some weapons does not drop in crates at all. This is especially bad in case of the second game's Synthenoid, which you can fire at most thrice before running out of ammo. Shield Charger's ammo also has to be bought, though in its case its clip and duration are bigger and upgrade, but it was nerfed in third game, making it closer to this trope. UYA has also other weapons for which you can't find ammo in crates, such as Agents of Doom, which have only 6 shots rather low power initially. Deadlocked's Harbinger also has normally only three shots and the ammo is costly, though that won't be much issue if you are able to buy the gun.
    • Second game has Zodiac, the ultimate weapon. Its ammo is found in crates, but you better hope you find it there because normally a single shot costs 10000 bolts, and the weapon can hold 4 shots at most. It does cause a large explosion all around Ratchet, but the long firing animation (which locks you in place and stops if Ratchet takes damage) and the fact that it was ineffective against bosses meant that it was firmly an Awesome, but Impractical gun to begin with, especially compared to the significantly cheaper RYNO II.
    • Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction has this with the Alpha Disruptor. You get it for free on Sargasso, and it deals jaw-dropping damage out of the starting gate, capable of killing any normal mook in one hit and able to bring down massive enemies like Leviathans in just a few shots—and further upgrades make it the most powerful weapon in the game, even more so than the R.Y.N.O. IV. Unfortunately, its awesome power is quickly set back by three major handicaps—first, it has truly abysmal ammo (4 at first, upgradable to 5). Second, it has a very slow rate of fire without buying expensive raritanium upgrades and the weapon requires charging before firing a shot, making it difficult to hit fast-moving targets with it. And third, it only fires in a straight line like a Sniper Rifle, which makes it great for hitting huge targets like bosses and leviathans, but very impractical for dealing with large, spread out crowds or individual mooks—and while it does have an auto lock-on function, this makes it even harder to use against a crowd of enemies, since it can lock onto the wrong target by accident.
  • P-Wings in Super Mario Bros. 3 give you infinite raccoon flight, but only once. This game also had some other items that fell prey to this effect, like the Hammer Suits and the Tanooki Suits. They were just too cool and rare to use anywhere, especially when you run the risk of getting them knocked out of you. They're more usable in the All-Stars remake, where you can save items and regain items earned from beating worlds, meaning you can easily farm P-Wings by repeatedly beating World 1. The same goes for Lakitu's Cloud, which allows you to automatically skip a single stage. While these items absolutely fall under this trope for a first-time player, they have a lot more utility to speedrunners, who know enough about the game to know exactly where they would be most useful and can allow them to achieve speeds that simply wouldn't be possible without using them.

    Puzzle Games 
  • Cradle Series: Each level has only one type of power-up tile, but any power-ups filled from previous levels are kept and can be used once if the level doesn't have the corresponding tiles. This can make the player not want to use the power-up in case they need it for a tougher, later level.
  • In Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, players can obtain the really rare Elder Kai cards. Elder Kai cards can be used to level up a character's Special Attack level, making their Limit Break hit much harder. However, many players suggest trying to find or grind cards for that character to save them for someone who would probably need it more.
  • The question skips in The Impossible Quiz. You do actually need to stockpile every last one to get past the last question. Muhahahaha.
  • Mojo! has the bonus infusers, which allow you to change into the respective color at will. However, you must have all four in order to unlock a powerup for a ball at the end of the world, and those powered-up balls are MUCH more useful than a bonus infuser…
  • Nibblers: Shark Attacks, which clear the board, cannot be bought with coins. Instead, they are typically given out during events, causing many a player to hold on to them until it's really needed.
  • The Talos Principle: The Messenger hints are a subversion. You get a maximum of three for the whole game, and although you need to solve a whole lot of its 120+ puzzles to even unlock them, there's still plenty of riddles left to use them on. The problem is that they tend to be so vague and generic they usually don't tell you anything but the current puzzle's most basic approach while the info you actually need to proceed would be much more specific.

  • For the same reason, the Red Eco Shield in Jak X: Combat Racing. It is the only thing able to stop Peacemaker or Supernova, the former essentially being this game's Blue Shell and the latter destroying everybody in front of the player who fired it and also delaying their respawn, therefore it will sit in your inventory until the time is right.
  • In Mario Kart 8, the Super Horn. Sure, it can hurt all other racers in a wide radius, and destroy incoming red shells to boot, but its ability to destroy spiny blue shells means that if you're even close to first place, it's probably not going anywhere.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Dawn of War:
    • The Eldar's relic unit is the Avatar of Khaine, a Physical God with the most health of any unit, very high damage, and makes nearby units much more resistant to morale damage. And yet many players (and the AI, by accident) will keep it inside their base, where it can't get into combat. Why? Well, because it also makes every unit build faster, and increases the cap for infantry and vehicles.
    • Similarly, the Tau Ethereal is a melee unit that provides detection, some unique abilities and summons, and boosts for the entire Tau army. Unfortunately, if he dies the entire Tau army is instantly demoralized. No one told the AI though, an an end-game assault can be quickly neutralized be targeting the lone Ethereal running headlong towards your army.
    • The AI tends to accidentally do this with vehicles (especially the Imperial Guard and orks), where the big relic vehicles and even normal ones end up trapped behind buildings, greatly decreasing their raiders' firepower. Conversely, it makes attacking them a lot harder, since these vehicles are now shielded by buildings.
    • You can call in Veteran units at any time in the campaign mode from the previous missions. You never will because you might need them when the AI decides you have won too many games in a row and starts to rush you with an unbeatable amount of units.
    • In the second game, the artillery strikes are hard to get and only work in incredibly specific situations (Tank traffic jams) but can win you the game.
  • Pikmin 2:
    • Purple Pikmin. They have ridiculously high attack power and can stun enemies if they land on them, but they're incredibly slow and lack any immunities like other Pikmin types, and on top of that they can only be created through rare Candypop Buds underground, unlike the primary Pikmin which come from Onions. Considering most bosses in-game either rely on a specific immunity or being able to get out of an attack quickly, some players prefer to use Red Pikmin than risk losing their Purples, due to only having slightly lower attack power than Purples, but are much quicker and plentiful. Also, there's the issue of requiring 100 Purple Pikmin to lift a dumbbell in Wistful Wild, which encourages players to save them until reaching that part.
    • Bitter Spray completely immobilizes enemies and makes even the toughest bosses complete jokes. To balance this out, it's much rarer to come by than the Spicy Spray, which just powers up a Pikmin's attack and speed, and the berry plants needed to make it are often in inconvenient locations. As such, most players just save it for when they're really in a jam and there's no other way out, such as when faced with Spotty Bulbears.
  • The Co-op missions from StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, where players pick specific commanders with certain units and special abilities. Every commander gets powerful cooldown abilities, such as Raynor's use of the Hyperion, Vorazun's Time Stop, or Mira's Space Station Reallocation. The keyword is "cooldown", and some abilities can have in excess of 300 seconds for a cooldown without upgrades and mastery levels. As such, it's possible to see players in the normal or easy difficulty, who don't have a fair grasp on the game yet, save them for if their base gets overrun, but then realize twenty seconds before victory that this dreaded scenario never came true, and they could have used it a half dozen times during the match where it would have made the mission significantly easier. This kind of practice is fairly rare in hard and nonexistent in brutal, but can still pop up in both from time-to-time depending on the co-op partner.
  • Star Wars: Rebellion:
    • The Death Star if you played as the Empire. Though costly and time-consuming, building one immediately helped your popular support, but if it left the sector, all the planets would slightly favor the Alliance. Furthermore, if you destroy a planet or if your Death Star is destroyed, you lose popular support throughout the galaxy. But if you've found the Alliance headquarters and have already captured Luke and Mon Mothma, it's a quick win.
    • Conversely, the Alliance has Luke: High in all stats except Diplomacy and Force-sensitive, his Force powers meant he could level up with a certain number of missions. If Vader or Palpatine were present, it would be that much quicker. (In fact, if you have Palpatine under blockade, you can have Luke power level by sabotaging everything on the planet, and then abducting Palpy.) But if Luke encounters Vader or Palpatine, there is a chance he'd be captured instantly, one-third of the Imperial victory conditions. But you need to encounter Vader to learn that Leia's Force-sensitive and he wins an event that captures both Vader and Palpatine (a massive two Rebellion victory conditions) if he's used enough that he completes enough missions to promote to Jedi Knight or higher. The event happens automatically as well, so if you decide that he is indeed too awesome to use, you'll end up losing him to the Empire for no reason at all.
    • There's also the fact that the game randomly selects who will be Force-sensitive (aside from the canonically required characters) each time you play. While there's no guarantee that your Force-sensitive characters will be any good, if you'll lucky enough to end up with a Force-sensitive Thrawn, for example (who has naturally high stats, to begin with, and Force training increases all stats), you'll probably not want to risk losing him. Especially since, unlike Palpatine and Vader, he can be killed in battle, thus eliminating the possibility of a rescue mission.
  • The heroes in Warcraft II are almost always Too Awesome to Use, as in most missions if they die you lose the mission. Only the human side has healers, auto-healing doesn't exist, and you don't always have healers in every mission, so most of the time you keep your hero locked up tight in your base where no one can hurt it so that you don't accidentally lose the mission by getting them killed. The expansion Beyond the Dark Portal made the heroes into souped-up versions of the regular units, so you might be tempted to use them (and you're often forced to by the mission); in vanilla Warcraft II, they're weaker than regular units (due to not actually counting as the unit they use the sprite of, meaning they don't benefit from unit upgrades) and far too easily killed to ever be risked in battle. Except when you really need that spell only the hero can cast.

    Rhythm Games 
  • When playing as Vegas or Pointman in Audiosurf, players may hold on to a paint or sort powerup until they get a large combo or the end of the song so they can get clean finish. Overfills that could have been avoided by using one of these powerups will ruin their plans, however, due to losing all power-ups you were carrying when you overfill.
  • Items in Groove Coaster. Especially the SAFE/FOLLOW items (turns up to 10 Misses into Goods that don't break your chain) and SUPER SAFE items (turns up to 20 Misses into Goods). Yeah, it might be tempting to deploy one and go for a No Miss or a Full Chain especially since maximum chain makes up a whole 10% of your scorenote , but you might want to use it on this other song, or save them for an upcoming event.

  • Beacon (2018): One of the Loading Screen tooltips warns about this:
    Use your grenades and pickups often as more will keep dropping.
  • The Binding of Isaac:
    • Many active items have this, with potential room-clearing effects being held until the absolute perfect moment. The granddaddy of these is Mega Blast, an item that fires a laser that obliterates everything in a wide area for 15 seconds, which persists through rooms and floors, but has a ridiculous 12-room charge time and is only charged by 3 when Isaac picks up a battery.
    • Worse than rechargeable items is any single-use active item. These often have absurd effects like destroying all rocks and killing most enemies on the entire floor and revealing every secret room, to doubling every item in the current room. It's not unusual to see players hold these things until the absolute perfect time. This behavior is even mocked by Pandora's Box, an item that gives you a different reward based on which floor it was used on, with each floor getting better and better, until the final floor which gives you either nothing or a single penny.
    • The Algiz rune, which provides total invulnerability for 30 whole seconds then is used up, is almost never used except to cheese any particularly tough boss unless Blank Card pre-Repentance or Clear Rune in Repentance is involved. With Blank Card/Clear Rune, it and any other rune can be used every four rooms, but getting it is not a guarantee.
    • The Jera rune doubles any pickups, including treasure chests, even in the two final floors where (non-red) chests have guaranteed items. Without Blank Card/Clear Rune, they're typically held onto until near the end of the game to get eight items from the Chest floor rather than four, unless the player is desperate for extra health or some other sort of consumable.
    • The ? Card as of Repentance can duplicate the effect of any activated item, including single-use items without getting rid of them. They are very rare but can allow multiple uses of any item that could normally be used once, so the player is met with a dilema on whether to duplicate items in multiple rooms, blow up two floors with a super-bomb, or wait to get an item that resets the run with all items intact and have one run that clears three different paths.
  • In Castle of the Winds, you randomly find magic wands that can cast all kinds of spells, even the room-clearing Ball spells, with as much as a dozen charges. Even if you do put one in your belt, you'll probably forget you have it.
  • Summon feathers in Chocobo's Dungeon allowed you to replace your partner with far more powerful summon creatures. This meant calling to your aid allies that could take down the game's bonus boss singlehandedly while taking only pitiful damage in return. The downside is that, should they actually die, you lose the feather you likely spent hours trying to get your hands on. A randomly summoned feather takes away that risk but doesn't give you the option of selection.
  • Spells in The Consuming Shadow packs quite a punch in battle and have several beneficial uses outside combat. The problem is that they put quite a drain on the Sanity Meter, and you really don't want the protagonist to go insane before the end-game, especially since he can't cast spells with too low sanity.
  • In Dungeon Crawl, many a run has ended permanently because a player was too proud to use that fancy wand when they and the orc they were facing were both at death's door, and the player was certain that next blow would strike true. Being a good Dungeon Crawl player is very much about knowing when to avert this; in a game with permadeath, a powerful tool sitting on your corpse might as well have not existed at all.
  • Being based on the same principle, but adding in an overworld and the ability to buy storage houses... let's just say it is very common to have a ginormous amount of these in Elona.
    • One example is prayer, which will remove negative statuses, uncurse your equipment and protect you from harmful magic for a while...which will also cost one-tenth of your accrued Favor with your God, which is only built back up from offering corpses and God-specific items at altars. Also, praying above certain Favor thresholds will give you certain gifts to a God, so doing this will set you back if you aim to get the gifts.
    • Rods of Wishing, for obvious reasons.
    • The Astral Light Pen is one of the rarest and most valuable items in the Elona+ expansion, allowing you to recruit a clone of any enemy you have a high relationship within your party. Other than the grueling choice of which of the many unique NPCs to copy, this also creates the added effect of inflicting this trope on Tokens of Friendship and Love Potions, which are the only way to meet the requirements with hostile monsters.
  • In Enter the Gungeon, literally every gun except your starting pistol can become this when it comes to clearing regular rooms, at least for the first couple of floors. After that, it continues to apply to whatever your most powerful gun is because there's always a chance you won't find any new ones on that floor. Blanks, too, tend to be hoarded until the boss fight, because a few well-timed blanks can mean beating the boss without taking any damage at all, which nets you an extra heart container. This is also partially subverted in that you start each floor with a minimum of 2 blanks if you have less than that, incentivising using up whatever blanks you have on the current floor if you don't have more than that to begin with.
  • Mewgenics: Both Invoked and Exaggerated with legendary artifacts you can find in expeditions- find the Holy Grail laying around, for example, and the cat that wields it shall gain a substantial bonus, but if it dies the Grail is lost. Forever.
  • NetHack:
    • In the late game, certain expendable items do become almost useless - namely scrolls and potions. (No need to hurl potions of paralysis at a monster when you can smite it with Excalibur, after all.) Almost, because you can dip potions and scrolls in water to blank them out; "blank" potions of water can be transformed with an altar into holy water, an essential de-cursing tool, while blank scrolls let you write a new magic scroll with a magic marker (itself an example of this trope, rare and versatile but wears out quickly). This encourages hoarding potions and scrolls that you don't intend to use in their current form, just in case you get the chance to remake them into something better.
    • The most dramatic example, however, is the wand of wishing, a limited-use item that lets you summon almost any item or object. Only one of these is guaranteed to spawn, and you're likely to reach the end of the game with a few charges left on it, saved for a dire emergency that never happened. In this game, though, being Crazy-Prepared is a good strategy.
  • In Slash'EM, a NetHack variant, may come across the Houchou, an artifact-level spoon. Throwing this spoon at a monster results in an instant kill, after which the artifact is destroyed.
  • Sunless Sea: The Icarus in Black is, technically, the best weapon in the game; the damage it causes is so absurd it can kill the most powerful beast in the entire game in two shots at most. However, the ammunition is similarly absurd: Angry, suicidal and very skilled monster-hunters that want to die a glorious death. Very few places have those, they are all remote, and they all want a payment big enough that their families can take care of themselves all on their own afterward. All in all, a thousand echoes per shot in the best of cases where the most expensive thing in the game, a giant dreadnought, costs thirty thousand; you are probably not going to use it more than twice.

  • The Climax Mode Limit Break in After Burner Climax, which gives you Bullet Time and a Macross Missile Massacre, does not come that rarely, but it's still possible to fall into this mentality as there's a chance you burn it on one enemy wave only for an even larger wave of enemy planes to show up.
  • Enforced in the final stage of NES game Laser Invasion. Some special missiles found there, and all ten of them, are to only be used to stop a rocket at its end.
  • Bombs are very useful in Star Fox, and are instrumental in a few boss fights. You don't find yourself using them too often, though, do you? Doubly so because killing multiple enemies with a single Bomb does not offer the same cluster-kill bonus that doing the same with a charge shot does. It mostly comes down to a matter of only using it on enemies that you KNOW you can't clear out anyway, and memorizing the points where more bombs appear so you can be sure a replacement is right around the corner.
  • In Thunder Force III onwards, dying takes away your current weapon unless it's Twin Shot or Back Shot, your initial weapons. Less experienced players who are aware of this penalty may find themselves refusing to use the better weapons, out of fear of losing them.

    Simulation Games 
  • No Man's Sky: There are several materials in the game that are exceedingly rare (and in many cases heavily defended), but are required components for the most advanced upgrades to suit tech or shipboard weapons. Players who are lucky enough to gather these probably won't want to use them due to the frequency with which ships and survival gear tend to be swapped out. What's even worse is the fact that dismantling the tech might not even return some of these materials. Luckily, the post-release addition of Base Vaults helps offset this somewhat.
  • Spore has a "Staff of Life" which, when used, can instantly Terraform a planet of your choosing into a tier-3 world, essentially the best rating for a planet's habitability. Unfortunately, it only has 42 uses (a reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and once you've used all 42 of them up, there's no way to recharge it. Since you can also terraform a world by manually tweaking the planet's temperature and atmosphere with other, rechargeable tools, it's not uncommon to just never use the Staff and have it sitting at 42 uses permanently.
  • War Thunder: Repair costs cause certain vehicles to be this. Since they are well performing, but can't be easily uptiered to a superior battle rating because their characteristics make them unsuitable against better vehicles, the developers instead increase the costs through algorithms that look at stats. This is particularly evident with Italian airplanes like the G.56 or the Sagittario 2, which are among the best at their battle ratings, but have ridiculously high repair costs. Since not all players swim in the in-game currency, they end avoiding entirely such vehicles to not risk being killed and having to pay a very expensive repair cost.

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • Chaff grenades in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots release small strips of aluminum into the air that can interfere with enemy communications and confuse robotic enemies. There are only 5 places in the game where they can be found (1 of which is only available in a New Game Plus and requires a very specific action to trigger).
  • Splinter Cell: If you didn't realize you could use the Sticky-Cam to knock out peoplenote , you'd end up hoarding Sticky-Shockers and Airfoils right past the point where they'd be useful. (And the games would often have Sam inexplicably dump several of his items during loading screens, rendering all your hoarding moot.) Conviction gives players "Weapon Stashes" that top off all the player's ammo whenever they're used, but from then on the Sticky Cam doesn't do impact knockouts.
  • The first two Thief games try to avert this by having the player lose all their equipment in-between missions and all their money after they finish buying equipment for the next mission, to discourage hoarding and try to get the player to use all the resources they have available to them. This still can crop up within the individual missions themselves (which tend to be fairly extensive), particularly in regard to the Gas Arrows, which can utterly trivialize otherwise difficult areas, but appear in extremely limited quantities.

    Survival Horror 
  • Alien: Isolation: the alien is unkillable, so every effective weapon you can use (from the iconic flamethrower to bombs and mines) only function to temporarily scare it to gain a short window for hiding or fleeing. After jumping into a vent it will soon return, roaming the level on high alert, so you'd prefer to entirely avoid pissing it off unless it's a matter of life or death, and stealth away.
    • The same applies to utility devices like noisemakers, flares or smoke grenades. While they could be situationally good diversions, they will also make the alien more suspicious. If you use them too much the xenomorph will start to ignore them and even try to investigate from where they were thrown! Therefore, it's not uncommon for players to complete missions without using anything, although at a slower pace.
    • The highest difficulty mode, nightmare, is very limited on resources, and if you are playing it, perhaps it is because you already completed the game and wanted a harder experience. So you well know that the game is long and all the risks explained above, except now with even less items!
  • Deadly Premonition has Thomas' Biscuit. You're only ever given two in the game; they refill all of your hunger and tiredness, as well as your health and stamina, and keep them low for longer. The first one given to you by the game is shortly before the final boss fight, meaning most players will probably use it there, but the other one comes during a Boss Rush with ample opportunities for saving between, meaning the second biscuit is likely to sit around in player's inventories all through the Playable Epilogue.
  • In the Lovecraft-inspired Mystery-Survivalhorror game Eternal Darkness, you will, except for the first chapter, never use healing items since they have only a limited amount of uses and you will often very early find the Tome of Eternal Darkness, which lets you cast Healing Spells among others and your Mana recharges. The same can be said about your Guns and other weapons that require ammo because the moment you find a melee weapon you won't use your guns on normal zombies anymore and only save them for the arcane horrors and Guardians. Or not even on them, but you will save them for the really big Eldritch Abominations at the end of the chapter, only to find that they are immune to bullets. Also, the chapters often end very abruptly, and your items do not get transferred to the present, so you will probably fight yourself through the chapter only with melee weapons and spells to save your ammo, and then see it all gone due to the chapter ending.
  • From The Evil Within there's the Rocket Launcher that, while severely underpowered compared to its Resident Evil cousin, is still a very powerful BFG in its own right. However, for a New Game Plus reward, it only comes with a sorely limited amount of 21 shots that can never be replenished. At all. And there are so many ways to waste a rocket too, combined with the Launcher's Awesome, but Impractical nature it tends to end up as a paperweight.
  • Fatal Frame: The Type-00 Film. It's the strongest film in the entire game and can dish out massive amounts of damage, even to the final boss. However, there is only a very limited supply in each playthrough and they tend to have to be found in random locations, so even if the player has it, they are unlikely to want to waste this precious film.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Nearly all entries in the series have players finding themselves with dozens of magazines worth of ammunition for their weapons, and their larger guns all but unused by the time they meet the final enemy, which most likely cannot be hurt by any of those weapons, even the big-ticket firearms. Sometimes, though, they're nice enough to make it fairly obvious what you're saving them up for by making every other option you have practical suicide (e.g. by the fifth time in a row you've been decapitated by a Hunter or tentacled to death by Nemesis, it's pretty clear you can go ahead and start using that nice, shiny magnum now).
    • Ink Ribbons. While most typewriters have at least one and possibly as many as three ribbons nearby, the prospect of running out and being unable to save is quite scary for many players.
    • In Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, the gunpowder for the bowgun turns the weakest weapon in the game into a full-on Demonic Spider splatterer. The problem is, there are only 30 charges in the entire game. And if you never brought Rodrigo the hemostat and got Claire's lockpicks back, there'll be even less as there are 2 suitcases of the stuff that can only be unlocked with the lockpicks. There is also the Magnum, which you'll definitely need for the later bosses, and if you left the Fire Extinguisher (which you need to extinguish the fire blocking the path to it) behind in the security box, it'll be unobtainable. Best part? There are only eighteen rounds for it in the whole game, and six of those come with the gun.
    • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has only one set of magnum rounds you can find in the game. If you want to get more, you have to make Gunpowder CCC, which comes from three Gunpowder C, which also comes from mixing Gunpowder A and B together. Making your own magnum rounds is great, but now you run into the issue of sacrificing extra handgun and shotgun ammo, which you will always need. Freeze rounds for the grenade launcher are the rarest ammo type in the game. Depending on what choice you made on the runaway train, Carlos can give you freeze rounds and that is the only time you can actually get it. You have to make freeze rounds yourself if you want some, which also means giving up handgun and shotgun ammo to create the freeze rounds. Freeze rounds will heavily cripple most enemies, including Nemesis himself. Most people will be saving freeze grenades specifically for Nemesis. And that's not even getting into the useful Enhanced Ammo for the regular pistol and shotgun that make even Nemesis himself flinch at times from its upgraded punch. Said ammo, unfortunately, can only be created once enough gunpowder A/B is turned into its base ammo with the reloading tool, with uncombined gunpowders providing the best method to create said enhanced ammo after enough gunpowder A/B is processed.
    • Resident Evil 4 has this with the rocket launcher, which is very powerful (can one-hit every boss in the game), but is still better to sell for cash and use that to upgrade one of your guns that gets more than one use. The 2023 remake makes it worse by inflating the Rocket Launcher's sale price five-fold.
    • Resident Evil 4 (Remake) features the CQBR. It's a fully-automatic M4 assault rifle, and while it can shred basically any enemy with only a short burst of fire, it still uses rifle ammo; which is intended for single-shot weapons and parceled out accordingly, leaving you with 4-5 rounds per drop on average. Without Infinite Ammo unlocked (which is definitely a Bragging Rights Reward), players usually just pop off the 20 included rounds into the nearest baddies and then sell it at the earliest opportunity.
    • Resident Evil 5 ends up playing this trope semi-straight (or at least straighter than the previous game did) due to its more limited inventory system. With only nine slots available per character, space is at a premium and it's usually best to rely on the weapon you have the most ammo for if only to keep your inventory from being clogged with four or five superfluous ammo boxes. Sadly, the ammunition for the best weapons in the game (magnums and the grenade launcher) is almost impossible to find. And even when you do find magnum and grenade rounds chances are you won't have either of those weapons in your inventory since you so prudently chose to store them away in your hammerspace inventory accessible only in between chapters. However, while there's nothing to be done about the inventory space, the game also doesn't think to take away items you picked up if you quit a chapter, so you once you find them you can stockpile magnum ammo, grenade rounds, and even rocket launchers with relative ease.
  • Silent Hill:
    • The more powerful weapons, such as the Rifle in the first two games and the Submachine Gun in the third, tend to have the scarcest ammo and should be saved for major boss fights. The Ampoule, an item that heals all of your health no matter how badly hurt you were, also suffers from the same scarcity and often ends up never used at all.
    • Silent Hill 3: Your end game score will be reduced if you use any of the Extra weapons in a New Game Plus (Beam Sabre, Gold and Silver Pipes, Flamethrower, Unlimited Machine Gun). Only a problem if you're trying for a perfect score
    • Silent Hill 4:
      • The game features unkillable Victim ghosts that haunt the player throughout the entire game. Your best defense is the Swords of Obedience (there's only five of them) and the even rarer Silver Bullets (there's only three, the last of which is a Bragging Rights Reward). Swords will pin down a fallen Victim for the remainder of the game; Silver Bullets will instantly "down" a Victim. Usually, players save the Swords for pinning down the four toughest Victims Cynthia, Jasper, Andrew, and Richard, while hogging the Silver Bullets for the latter two, essentially bypassing two of the hardest fights in the game.
      • Holy Candles and Saint Medallions. Both are effective means of defense against Victims and come pretty early in the game, but players may choose to start saving them for the second half of the game, when the apartment starts suffering Hauntings whose exorcism directly influences the ending of the game.
    • Silent Hill: Origins has one of the largest weapons' count in the series (including six kinds of firearms). Most of them, however, are commonplace depot appliances. The more powerful ones break after a single use, so players want to save them for boss fights and the like. But there's so many of them that Travis usually ends the game with dozens of TV sets, toasters, blenders, and hammers in his pockets.

    Third-Person Shooters 
  • The Smart Bomb in Alien Swarm. When you unlock it, you can carry only one. It's the same as the Hornet Barrage, but 5 of them. It fires so many damn rockets that a huge swarm can easily be dispatched with the item. However, since you can only hold 1, you'll have a tough time figuring out when is the best time to use it.
  • Splatoon 2 Salmon Run mode: you have 2 specials and 3 waves. Unlike other modes, specials do not recharge so players used to the other modes are suddenly hit with the issue of finite supply, and being splatted does not lose their charge so the "use it or lose it" factor is not there. Not using them during the first 2 waves can be justified by wave 3 being the toughest - but by then, a player can get used to dealing with the salmonids without specials, and it is all too easy to only remember the specials are there when the final wave is over.

    Tower Defense 
  • Insta-Monkeys in Bloons Tower Defense 6, especially for Tier 4 and 5 monkeys. An Insta-Monkey lets you place a pre-upgraded tower for free. High-tier Instas can potentially save you tens or hundreds of thousands of cash. On the other hand, login bonuses only give you low-tier ones every few days, and the other way to get them is reaching every 100 rounds in a game. Even then, you'll mostly get Tier 3 ones. Tier 4 Instas are rare, and you'll need to play Expert maps for a decent chance of them. Tier 5 ones are practically unobtainable outside of special events.
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Most emergency plants, e.g. Cherry Bomb, Jalapeño, Doom Shroom, etc. Most of them get pretty expensive at 100 sun upward for an explosion, when you could be spending your sun on permanent attacking plants. They also take forever to recharge, so you can't use one back-to-back for multiple emergencies.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • BattleTech: About halfway through the campaign mode you're gifted an SLDF Highlander absolutely loaded with LosTech. This thing might be the most powerful 'Mech in the game... but it's also loaded with literally irreplaceable LosTech, parts of which are bound to be lost to attrition with each deployment. Mitigated somewhat with the Heavy Metal DLC, which makes LosTech parts show up on the black market more regularly, which makes keeping your trophy Highlander at peak performance more plausible.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The Samurai class in Final Fantasy Tactics has the ability to unleash area attacks from the different katanas available in the game. However, using them in this fashion had a chance of breaking them. While some of the weaker katanas were easily purchased (including, fortunately, one that restored allies' health), the most powerful ones were available only as rewards in battle (or via stealing from enemies). While you could just equip said katanas and use them for melee attacks to your heart's content, the special attack (which could break the katana) wound up never used.
    • See that beautiful Allmighty Antilaw in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance? It allows you to completely nullify all laws in the battle. Which means that they are the ultimate anti-judge weapon. But then it should be noted that it is limited to very certain plot points of the game. This extends to a lesser extent to the R level law cards which are still rare, but they can keep returning to the card shop. But good luck on getting yourself to use them too because often times you will just stomach the laws to begin with.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • The Aum Staff in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is unique in that, in a game where Permadeath is in full effect, it is capable of bringing any deceased allied unit back to life. As a trade-off, however, it can only be used once (or five times in Book 2 of Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem), and it can only be used by certain characters, without whom the staff is completely useless. In the Shadow Dragon version of the game, most players use it as part of a trick that allows them to have both Tiki and both versions of the Falchion (which is otherwise a combination that can't exist).
    • The unique S-rank staves in various games (e.g. the Ashera Staff in Path of Radiance). They heal all your allies on the battlefield as well as removing all status ailments and give enough experience to the caster for a level up. But they only have three uses, and in order to use them at all, you need an S-rank in staves (which has no other purpose and, in some games, stops you from S-ranking any other weapon type). This at least is not so much a problem in Radiant Dawn, because you only get the Ashera Staff from a character (whose method of recruitment approaches a Guide Dang It!) that joins in the last chapter, and it can be freely used in the fight with the Final Boss.
    • The Hammerne staff, which can repair almost any item in the game. Again, three uses before it's gone forever (1 in Fire Emblem: Awakening, 5 in Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, and a much more reasonable 12 in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light and its DS remake). However, the Hammerne staff can be used to repair other Too Awesome To Use items and weapons.
    • Most of the long-range magic items suffer from this trope. They're quite powerful and can be used from very far away, but are not common and have only 5 uses. In Radiant Dawn, if you have them blessed near the end of the game, they become infinitely usable making them partial Game Breakers.
    • The majority of S ranked, Brave, and special weapons tend to fall under this trope. For example, the Vague Katti is a decently powerful sword, but its true strength lies in its 35% increased chance of landing a Critical Hit. Too bad it only has enough uses to be good for one or two chapters. Such weapons tend to be hoarded until the final chapters, making the game up to that point harder than it needs to be and making said final chapters sometimes laughable.
    • The Blazing Blade references this when a character warns not to put too much thought into who gets an item; 'holding onto a useful item does no one any good'. However, said NPC appears in Lyn's mode, and saving the item will help up your funds ranking. A higher funds ranking means Lyn has a better gem in her inventory in Eliwood/Hector mode, so ironically, this is the one time not using an item IS helpful (though it's debatable whether the better funds ranking and the extra gold, later on, outweigh the stat bonus from using the item right away).
    • The Binding Blade enforces this behavior. You have access to the game's ultimate weapons very early, but they have few uses, and in order to get the best ending they all need to be intact by the time you beat the Big Bad. Even though you technically CAN use them 1/3 of the way through the game, most players won't until the very end.
    • Going for an overall A Funds ranking also enforces this kind of behavior, as it's based on the total monetary worth of all items in your possession. Expect the wast majority of Silver weapons to get hoarded in the convoy and never used. Also, note many forum members consider this the only way to play.
    • Myrrh from The Sacred Stones is an example of a character that is too awesome to use. She is a cute person that also happens to be an extremely powerful dragon, but she required her Dragonstone to attack. Every attack, even counterattacks, costs one charge. The problem is that it only has fifty charges, there's no way to repair it (outside of a Good Bad Bug) and the one in her possession is the only Dragonstone in the game. Use it up and Myrrh will become completely useless. (The trick is to learn when to start using her so her level is high enough to be useful—yes, part of those 50 charges must be used for leveling her up—and yet leave the Dragonstone with enough charges to maul the True Final Boss.)
      • Many other Manaketes have similar downsides. Fae in The Binding Blade has only thirty uses on her Dragonstone, meaning she tends to run dry pretty darn quickly if she's used with any regularity.
    • Lessened in Awakening with the Armsthrift skill, which stops weapons from eroding. It activates on a percentage chance using double the characters luck stat. When a character has a luck stat (plus bonuses) of 50 or greater, powerful weapons can be used to your heart's content.
    • Awakening also has the added bonus that most items that have tended to be impossibly rare in the past, such as permanent stat-boosters, Brave Weapons, etc., often have some method of gaining more. Granted, they're often from rare means such as random merchants just happening to show up with them, or through paid DLC, but at least there's some way to get more, instead of them being lost. This is even more exemplified if one of the SpotPass teams has it in their shop inventory; initially after the game's release one would need to wait over the course of several months for their release, but now that they're all out there (and can be resummoned an infinite number of times), a new player can bring these teams onto the map instantly and, provided they have the money, start buying Game-Breaker weapons and spells immediately and infinitely.
    • Fire Emblem Heroes
      • Light's Blessings allow you to revive all your heroes if your team is wiped out in a map and pick up where you left off. Unfortunately, you can only get them through certain circumstances. And you can only get three of them through the My Nintendo rewards system.
      • The Forma Soul allows you to recruit a Forma unit from the Hall of Forms, which you can customize with skills you obtain through the course of the event. However, these are extremely rare outside of the game shop, making people reluctant to use them.
    • Downplayed in Fire Emblem Fates. Staves are still limited-use, but weapons aren't anymore, allowing your army to swing those fancy high-tier weapons all day every day. However, the tradeoff is that more powerful weapons come with drawbacks such as debuffs or reduced evasion, meaning that more common weapons remain practical to use.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
      • As you can only buy one of each Brave-tier weapon in any save file, regardless of what your professor rank is, most players stop at Silver, which is still strong enough to carry characters even in the late-game. Brave weapons are rare finds on the battlefield (and if one has online functionality, rusted Brave weapons can be found from time to time), but even so, it is not often enough to justify their use.
      • Nine of the thirteen Heroes Relics are this. To repair, they require Umbral Steel, which is a rare ore found by completing optional battles, but their durability is usually no more than 25 and they will often hit twice. The only exceptions are the accessories (Thyrsus, the Aegis Shield, and the Rafail Gem), as they do not have weapon durability, and the Sword of the Creator, which can be restored simply by Resting on a given Saturday for +5 durability per rest and automatically repairs after being upgraded to the Sublime Sword of the Creator.
      • Until you unlock the ability to actually buy them from Anna's Secret Shop, Elixirs fall into this category, especially because characters are usually still only in the 20s and 30s of HP at that point. This makes Concoctions still the most efficient healing items to use at that point.
    • Fire Emblem Engage has the Nodus staff, which you acquire by getting Elusia to the maximum donation level. It restores all party members' Engage meters to full, but only has a single use and cannot be acquired anywhere else. As such, many players are hesitant to use it, although the class skill for Hortensia's unique class gives a chance to avoid expending the staff's durability after using it, thus allowing it to be used again.
  • In most normal gameplay, you won't need to use the Jonathan Ingram card in Metal Gear Ac!d, despite it being one of the most powerful ones in the game. Ingram removes twenty COST from your character, far beyond the twelve COST removed by the most powerful conventional COST reduction card - but, because Jonathan Ingram is so powerful, it tends not to get used.
  • The three one-shot ultra-weapons in Odium (a missile, lightning and an energy beam). They cause colossal damage in a huge radius.
  • In Piratez, there are the Baby Nukes, which can only be found on certain difficult missions (and obviously do not exist).
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri's expansion pack introduced Battle Ogres. These are alien war machines left on Planet that really kick-ass, especially the Mark 3. Problem? They are rare, and damage to them can never be repaired. So despite having very good weapons for when you pick them up, they tend to sit around as garrison units, because they have an ability that makes them better police. They're also good stopgaps in the case of mind worm swarms, as they have not only good defense but (in the mark 1 and 2 versions) additional defenses against psi attacks. Just be sure to never let them get into real combat.
  • Super Robot Wars:
    • In older titles, many of the early equipment parts that players would receive were consumable parts which could fully repair or resupply a unit, or even restore the pilot's SP. Despite being relatively common or even purchasable, players abhorred using them and would often end up with dozens of them by the end of the game, especially as these parts take up the same slots that can be used for always-on stat upgrades. Super Robot Wars Z reworked consumable items into being usable once per stage, in exchange for being much rarer than they used to be, a change that's stuck ever since.
    • Super Robot Wars V features an in-universe example with the presence of Space Battleship Yamato 2199: true to its source material, the Yamato's Wave-Motion Gun is exclusively limited to cutscenes for the vast majority of the game, as it causes far too much collateral damage to use in battle. It takes facing down the full might of the Invaders horde for the ship's captain to approve using the Gun in combatnote , at which point it proves to have an attack power miles above everything else and a gargantuan area of effect.

    Visual Novel 
  • A Little Lily Princess: Becky has that attitude with her very meager wages. She doesn't consider using them to get extra food worth it, has two different more expensive items she would like to buy if she ever saves enough money for them and is worried that buying either will leave her unable to handle an eventual emergency for quite a while.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • In most games, getting a vehicle you want to keep generally means it will stay in the garage forever since if you take it to do a mission, you will likely have to get out of it and risk it disappearing, and they are ridiculously easy to destroy. Except for the everything-proof variety. Everything meaning collision, fire, and bullets.
    • This is taken to insane lengths in Grand Theft Auto III. Certain plot-involved cars are immune to certain things, such as bullets, fire, explosions, and wrecks. Most of these cars could only be obtained ONCE per game and often required hours of trial and error to get. Many players spent many hours collecting them, just to have them waste away in a garage, even though some missions almost require one to complete.
    • Another notable mention of this trope is the combine harvesters in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. These vehicles had the unique and delightfully sadistic feature of turning crops of pedestrians into neatly bundled up bales of body parts. Unfortunately, the harvesters are rare, encountered only at certain times in rural areas. In addition, almost all of them are locked and can only be accessed by killing the driver of one already in use. Even after obtaining one, the size of the vehicle makes it difficult to move in populated areas and impossible to fit into a garage for safekeeping. Its slow speed and bad handling make the player easy for law enforcers (who inevitably start to show up after a few good mauls) to catch. Finally, if the player decides to exit the vehicle for any reason, the door locks behind them.
  • L.A. Noire has Intuition Points that allow you to find all clues and ease questioning, you also only get a limited amount of them and can only have 5 at once. This is inverted after you have completed the story, which lets you go back to any previous case and always start with 5 Intuition Points. This encourages using them to achieve a perfect rank in that case.
  • Mercenaries: World In Flames has this issue with its various Airstrikes/Supply drops. If you had a strike available you need only aim at the target area, and call down the thunder/goods. They can even be found at a decent frequency. But you are constantly in paranoia that your large mortar strike won't be as useful here clearing out a random enemy outpost, as it would there... the next enemy outpost. There's only one instance where an airstrike is necessary, and you use a nuclear bunker-buster for that one. Aside from that, players are likely to have enough large munitions stocked up to support a small army.
  • Minecraft:
    • The original Golden Apples were the king of Minecraft's Too Awesome To Use throne. At the time, red apples alone were incredibly rare, only being found occasionally in dungeons — this only several updates after golden apples could found that way — or dropping off Notch, the game developer, should he grace your server. Then, you had to encase that red apple in 8 blocks of gold. A gold block takes 9 gold ingots. You would have to mine and smelt 72 blocks of the fairly rare gold ore in order to have enough material to make a single golden apple. And then, since hunger didn't exist yet, its only effect was to fully heal you, something you could get much more cheaply from cake. Later updates after the hunger system existed boosted the 8-block golden apple's power to better match its expense, made red apples easily farmable, and added a less-potent golden apple made from gold ingots, making the whole thing much more practical.
    • Some consider diamond equipment to be this. A pickaxe made of diamond mines faster and lasts a lot longer than one made of iron or stone... but it still breaks eventually, and if you're killed by underground monsters or a lava flow, you risk losing it forever. Similarly, diamond armor offers a great deal of protection, and diamond swords deal 25% more damage than iron swords, but since they're only useful in combat, there's a serious risk of losing them long before their unparalleled durability runs out, especially when diamond armor provides not much more protection than iron, which is plentiful. Diamond is found deep within the earth, usually near lava, and is even rarer than gold. It can still be worth using with proper branch mining techniques, but it is time-consuming to hunt for. The introduction of the Mending enchantment reduced this significantly.
    • While it is possible to get a stack of diamonds in a relatively short time, such cannot be said about netherite. Introduced in 1.16, this material can only be extracted from a very rare ore in the Nether. It takes considerable efforts to find even one ancient debris, and you need four to make a single netherite ingot. Furthermore, netherite ingots must be used by forging them onto a diamond equipment. This means that you probably will not use netherite tools beyond your flagship armor and pickaxe. At least however, netherite items are unique in that they cannot be destroyed by fire, lava or explosions when dropped.
    • Ender Pearls. Endermen drop them when killed but they are difficult to kill quickly due to their Teleport Spam and the drop rate of the pearl is low. Throwing a pearl will teleport the player wherever it lands (but hurt you when used to prevent people from spamming the pearls nilly willy), making them excellent tools to climb hills or to cross large gaps, but since the pearls are not common, players will either store them up and never use them or wait for the worst possible scenario to happen before using them. On top of that, an ender pearl can be combined with blaze powder to create an Eye of Ender, and you'll need up to a dozen every time you want to activate a stronghold portal to The End, not counting however many you use up trying to locate the stronghold. For bonus points, as of 1.9, they are the only way to traverse the End to find End Cities—you can't even get to the portal that sends you between the mainland and the islands without one. Sure, the End is full of Endermen to kill for more pearls if need be, but considering how hard they are to fight, do you really want to make yourself go through that?
    • Enchanted tools and armor. You can get some nifty effects for your items, such as setting mobs on fire or increasing the diamond drop rate. However, the enchantments you receive are pretty unpredictable, and the experience cost increases quadratically with the enchantment level. You'd have to kill 77 hostile mobs for level 10, 651 hostile mobs for level 30, or 1785 hostile mobs for the maximum, level 50. Furthermore, enchanted items can't be repaired without stripping the enchantment. They basically have all the drawbacks of diamond equipment. Fortunately, later updates made several changes that made them more practical: The level required for maximum enchantments was reduced to thirty, they consume only a portion of the experience required to unlock them, and they can be repaired on anvils. A new enchantment called Mending was also added which allows the item to be directly repaired from collected XP. Although this enchantment can only be acquired from trading with villagers or from treasure chests, it effectively allows an item to last forever as long as you're careful not to use their last hitpoint or drop them in lava.
    • Potions are risky to use at most. Health and regeneration potions are handy to have since they can directly restore your health regardless of your hunger level, swift potions boost your speed, strength potions give your damage a boost, and fire resistance potions makes you immune to fire and lava. However, most of the ingredients needed are difficult to find and the majority of them are found in the Nether where the most difficult monsters are found and hold drops needed to craft the potions. Once you actually get the ingredients and craft the potions, you may be tempted to not use them at all in fear of wasting their effects if you get killed.
  • No More Heroes has Anarchy in the Galaxy, the most devastating Limit Break move in the game that clears the entire screen of enemies. It's also the only Limit Break that can not only be triggered at will (thus avoiding every other one's problem of almost always being gained from the last kill in a room), but stacks as well in case you get more than one over the course of a level, and you get a sizeable cash bonus if you make it through the level without using it. The cash bonus increases on subsequent playthroughs. It also does squat to bosses.
  • Depending on your playing style, the blunderbuss from Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare may qualify. Hands-down the most powerful gun in the game, it blasts zombies into a fine pink mist with one shot (several of them if they happen to be in a tight cluster). The ammo is made from dead zombie parts (ribs, eyes, ears, and tongues according to the RDR Wiki) and it takes ten zombie parts to make one unit of blunderbuss ammo. However, if you blast the undead apart with the blunderbuss you can't loot their bodies for ammo ingredients, which forces you to kill zombies normally. If you can kill 10+ zombies with conventional weapons you probably don't need the blunderbuss anyway.
    • On a similar note, the Explosive Rifle from Red Dead Redemption may qualify as well; it is a powerful, experimental, single-shot rifle added to the game by a DLC pack. It takes a shitload of money to buy, and while it is available for half the price, this feature only comes when the player has a high enough honor (meaning they have to play throughout most of the game not taking advantage of Video Game Cruelty Potential). Furthermore, the rifle can only be purchased in the final region unlocked in the game. And if the player does get the rifle, they will find it to be an overpowered beauty which completely annihilates any enemies and animals, removing the ability to loot them, and has a maximum bullet limit of 15 bullets. Sure, they can expand this to 30, but to do so, the player requires the purchasing of an additional item-the bandolier. Thankfully, this item is available near the beginning of the game and is relatively cheap.
  • Making it to the Galactic Core in Spore gives you the Staff of Life, which instantly terraforms a planet to T3 with full ecosystems. The downside is that it only has 42 uses, and you can't get more without a mod. In theory you could get one Staff of Life per save file, and you can have a lot of saves (though there is still a hard cap), but you'd have to make it to the Galactic Core each time which is no easy feat.
  • Missile launchers in TerraTech are the most versatile and among the most powerful weapons in the game, but they are also expensive and prone to blowing up after a few hits. Players tend to hoard them until they have enough to bulldoze anything in their path.
  • Terraria:
    • The Star Cannon. Shot for shot, it's the most powerful weapon in the game, and it can be crafted fairly early. The catch is that it uses Fallen Stars as ammo. Fallen Stars are dropped at a very low rate at night (you'll get maybe ten or twelve if you scour the earth), are used in many other crafting recipes (including the essential Mana Crystals), and can't be reused once fired. Furthermore, the Star Cannon has a ludicrously high rate of fire, so even with armor that reduces your ammo consumption, you'll end up burning through your star stockpile at a fairly quick speed.
    • The Coin Gun deals damage based on the type of coin fired from it, with platinum coins dealing the most by far, making it one of the strongest weapons in the game. The rarity comes from how platinum coins require a lot of farming to get: the only enemy that drops coins of that value is the final boss, and he only drops one on the Classic difficulty.

Non-video game gaming examples:

    Board Games 
  • Battlestar Galactica boardgame
    • The Admiral gets 2 nuke tokens he can use to demolish entire space sectors and have a high chance to destroy the incredibly dangerous Cylon carrier basestars in one quick attack. But you only got two, and it can be a 4-hour game. There might come a situation where they are more needed than right now. Better hold on to them I guess.
    • The Exodus Expansion brings in a skill card for every skill deck that has a value of 6, more than any other skill card. So it is incredibly powerful to play into skill checks. But all of those cards also have a very powerful Action printed on them. So you are torn apart between keeping it for some skill check or using it for its awesome powers. The engineering skill card of that tier allows that player to build an additional nuke...
  • The queen in Chess verges on this, at least in the beginning of the game. A common piece of advice to beginners is to never bring your queen out too early, as while it is the most powerful piece, that actually makes it vulnerable in the opening due to the fact that it can be chased around and trapped by less valuable pieces. Of course, there are always exceptions to this.

    Card Games 
  • Some cards in Magic: The Gathering are specifically designed to invoke this trope, by giving you a small cheap effect and/or a large expensive effect. Good players will know when getting it out now is more important than making it more powerful; bad players will not.
    • One such example is Kavu Titan when they were playtesting Invasion and someone lent now-head Designer Mark Rosewater a deck to use without mentioning that the Grizzly Bears (a basic 2-mana card with two power/toughness, similar to Kavu Titan without its kicker) were supposed to be proxies for Kavu Titans. Mark went 4-0 the first week, and then upon being told that they were actually Titans, he went 2-2 the next week, wanting to hold back to use the Titan's improved version rather than just pouring on the aggression.
    • Another example is the Chaos Orb, a card which is tossed from a specified height onto the gaming table and destroys any card it ends up touching. It is now banned entirely from tournament play, but in the early days a story went around about some players came up with the clever idea of tearing up the Chaos Orb card and scattering all the pieces across the opponent's side of the table. This was eventually deemed illegal, but anyone with the cojones to pull a stunt like that with an extremely valuable out-of-print rare deserves to get the win.
    • There are also the Planeswalkers, which often have a small ability that keeps them alive, and more powerful abilities that can often kill them or leave them near-death, and they can use only one per turn. Garruk Wildspeaker, in particular, gets this treatment: "Do I untap two lands or Overrun?" is a legitimate question.
  • Certain cards in Munchkin: high-level monsters, particularly nasty curses, cards that empower enemies, etc. that are usually reserved until someone reaches high levels, at which point the other players unleash Hell to stop them from winning.
    • Also, the "Official Munchkin Cheesy Promotional Bookmark of Power" may be played in any game to gain one or more extra cards. Playing the bookmark requires tearing it into shreds (and doing a silly dance, because Munchkin).

    Choose Your Own Adventure 
  • Creature of Havoc: The Crystal Club delivers a single automatic One-Hit Kill and then shatters. It's also the only way to defeat the Big Bad in the final confrontation. Hope your Player Character didn't waste it on some random rhino-man...
  • Deliberately enforced with the Sunstone in the eighth and final GrailQuest book, Legion of the Dead; it can either give you an obscene amount of gold or a massive amount of LIFE POINTS over and above the possible maximum, which then becomes your new permanent total, but it is the only thing that can defeat the titular Legion and if you use it before the boss battle with them the game becomes Unwinnable. When you get it, you are warned to resist temptation and save it for when you meet the Legion.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Fellow Games Workshop game, Chainsaw Warrior has the Laser Lance. This weapon is the most important item in the game, he'll always start with this (in contrast everything else he has is random, even his chainsaw might not appear). It's the one weapon that NO ENEMY is immune to and in the iOS game sequel - the Laser Lance has an Armor Piercing capability that rivals a multi-rocket M-T-M Rocket launcher and the massive Bartlett X600 Sniper Rifle. However few people use the Laser Lance unless it's a real emergency or they're fighting the last boss, the Darkness. The kicker? The Laser Lance has mediocre accuracy and only 3 shots. The Darkness can only be killed by two weapons, the Laser Lance and the Implosion Vest which also kills the wearer, making the Laser Lance the only safe choice.
  • Magic items in the earliest edition of The Dark Eye could easily end up being this, since with the single exception of the eponymous "dark eye" all example items listed in the rulebook, from the obligatory healing potion over a belt that would temporarily boost a character's strength to a key that could open any lock, were single-use only. (The dark eye itself was limited in a different fashion — it was a crystal ball magically tied to the site of its creation, so even if you ever found the one you couldn't take it with you.)
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Asset management is a large part of the game, so this is common.
    • The Wish spell (starting from Basic D&D), and its divine counterpart Miracle (much later) can do almost anything. In a normal campaign, however high-level, no-one will ever cast them, unless suicidally desperate. The cost and having to deal with possible twists simply aren't worth it. The first edition encourages the Dungeon Master to be as much of a jerkass literal genie as the wish wording allowed. The second and third edition restored some balance by adding "safe" uses of the spells, making them quite useful. For example, they can be used to imitate any other spell below certain levels, even granting access to spells that the character would otherwise never be able to cast. In the 5th Edition, where instead of an xp cost, there is a 33 percent chance every time you cast it of never being able to cast it again, meaning on average a caster will only be able to cast it 3 times in their entire life.
    • Spellcasters are limited by the number of spells they can cast throughout the day. Some players tend to underuse their high-level spells, holding back just in case they get into another combat before they can recharge.
    • Magic items, including scrolls, potions, and items with charges, are often underused by most players, particularly in campaigns in wich magic items are particularly rare.
    • 4th edition play this straight with Daily Powers and many players as well; because they are usable only once per day (though they do reset), they tend to be saved for bosses. At low levels, you only have one, and thus often save it for the boss fight. At higher levels, you will have four daily powers, and possibly some daily utility powers as well, meaning that if you save them all for the final fight, even if you use them every single round in the fight, you still may not run out of them and will likely overwhelm the boss with insane firepower. Interestingly, many high-level monsters seem to be designed with the assumption that you'll drop a daily power in every fight, which is actually probably a good idea because it helps you conserve healing surges for later in the adventure.
    • In 5th Edition, this can actually be an Inverted Trope if the DM and players are somewhat experienced and/or the DM gets "meta" with the players. Once the party gets past level 3 or so, a fully-rested party with all of their abilities can usually tear through an appropriate-level challenge if they're allowed to go all-in on an enemy, so DMs that want a challenging final fight (without resorting to going way above the party level) may try to get PCs to use up some abilities by doing a fake-out of encounters left so PCs will use up some of their abilities before the fight or will make the fight initially seem easier than it is so the PCs can get lulled into complacency before the DM springs the trap. played straight with Hit Dice though, as it is usually best for PCs to travel around near full health, but the rules only allowing 1/2 of max hit dice to be restored upon a rest can make players hesitant to heal fully during a Short Rest lest they have fewer resources for the following day.
    • 5th Edition also has this problem bad with the "Inspiration" mechanic if going by the book rules. Players can only have one charge of Inspiration, and have to declare that they are using it in advance so there's a fear of using it unnecessarily because you literally didn't need it. This can actually be worse in VT Ts like Roll 20 where the additional number is shown second so you'll see if the first number was already sufficient (as opposed to rolling two dice and taking the higher and not knowing which was which). Baldur's Gate 3 fixes this problem by allowing you to use them as a "second chance" and also to pool the entire group's worth of Inspiration into a single number so you can have up to 4 now.
    • In all editions of D&D, many limited-use magic items such as scrolls, potions, and wands may become this. Players save them, and then eventually realize that they have saved them so long they have become useless.
      • Interestingly, in 3rd edition D&D, because almost all magic items can be bought or crafted pretty easily, this sometimes got reversed for cheap magical items; one of the most common accessories for experienced adventurers was the so-called heal stick or cue stick, a wand of cure light wounds which had 50 charges and thus could heal massive amounts of damage between fights at an extremely low cost. Once players got wealthy enough, they would start every fight at maximum hit points as a result, which leads to 4th edition allowing characters to simply heal for free between fights, and for limited-use healing items to heal using the same pool of healing as natural healing used, making them more of a convenience than anything else.
    • All editions of D&D suffer from the "5-minute workday" issue to varying extents in order to subvert this trope; essentially, the players unload ALL of their best daily abilities upfront, and then immediately go rest, so that they can spam them every single encounter. This was a much worse problem in earlier editions of D&D, where there were many ways of hiding in a safe space under pretty ridiculous circumstances.
  • Defied in Numenera: Limited-Use Magical Devices called cyphers are found all over the place, but PCs are only able to carry two or three or a time safely. So regardless of how awesome a given cipher is, the system encourages you to burn them and grab new ones after every encounter.
  • Destiny points and, to a lesser extent, Force points in Star Wars: Saga Edition:
    • Destiny points are extremely powerful character attributes: they can be spent to make any attack an automatic critical hit or any enemy attack an automatic miss (even after the dice have already been rolled and the results announced); they allow your character to act out of turn or take damage, and they can be converted to three less-powerful, but still useful Force Points. The downside? You only get one at each level up, with no way to obtain more. Due to their extreme power, players tend to stockpile them and not spend them unless the situation is truly desperate. Some GMs house rule a hard cap on how many destiny points a character can have at one time in an attempt to avoid this (and to prevent the players from taking out the campaign's final boss by using destiny points to score 5 critical hits before said boss can even act).
    • Force points allow a character to activate some special abilities, add 1d6 to nearly any d20 roll, and turn a fatal blow into a merely incapacitating one. That last one ensures that players always keep at least one on hand at all times. Because Force Points only regenerate at each level up, players usually stockpile a couple for emergencies and refuse to spend them until they're close to leveling up. An alternate, optional rule sees players get a far lower number of Force points (one for Levels 1-6, two for levels 7-12, and three for levels 13+) but have them regenerate daily. Though the game suggests using this rule for a campaign that uses Force points more frequently, the end result often sees less Force point usage, to the point where players under level 7 frequently won't use any Force Points at all, lest they be caught without one when a strong attack drops them to 0 HP.
  • Avalon Hill's Third Reich (both the table-top and computer versions) has elements of this:
    • The double move: With a little judicious spending, it's possible to move twice in a row, which can be a huge advantage. The only problem? It tends to set up the other side to do the same exact thing, so most players will never use it unless they can be pretty certain of knocking a major enemy country out of the war.
    • American units: These are the best Allied units in the game, but they have a drawback. American units that get eliminated have to be rebuilt in the United States and then initially deployed to Britain (or France, in the unlikely event that France is still standing), but the United States can only initially deploy six units per turn, and those units cannot be strategically redeployed to any place outside of Britain until the next turn. So there's a temptation for the Allies to let the British carry the brunt of the fighting since any British casualties can return to the front a turn earlier than any American casualties.
    • French and British units in the Mediterranean theater: This is the same principle as the previous point. British units are generally stronger than French units, but British units require two nine-factor fleets to be transported to the Mediterranean front, whereas French units require only one (assuming the French navy has been based in Marseilles). So if the war in North Africa heats up while France is still standing (granted, it usually doesn't), there is a temptation for the Allies to let the French bear the brunt of the fighting there.
  • Warhammer:
    • A good number of one-use-per-game magic items that a player must carefully choose the right time to use. Frequently these will end up going unused in the hands of a cautious player, who is saving them for a later that never comes, just in case. Perhaps the most common such item in the 8th edition of the game is the Dispel Magic Scroll - a scroll which automatically dispels an enemy spell and stops it from working before it is cast. In previous editions of the game the Dispel Magic Scroll was ubiquitous — the only magic item that could be duplicated. This led to many players loading down their wizards with as many of the things as they could cram in, then using them liberally, to severely curtail the enemy's magic phase. This was rarely fun, especially if both sides were doing it, so in 8th edition, the Dispel Magic Scroll has become a one-per-army item like everything else. Now that it represents your army's one chance to automatically counter a key enemy spell (other dispel attempts require the rolling of dice, and can fail) it has become a precious resource indeed. So precious that they frequently go unused nowadays.
    • There's also an abundance of arcane items similar to the dispel scroll that either expands upon its functions (such as dispelling all magic that phase) or does something equally effective to the enemy wizards that effectively shut them down for one turn. They're usually done so in such a way that they cost much higher than what the dispel scroll would be worth, even if the effect was technically worse; this is because the writers know that the simple fact that these items exist would unbalance the game, after all, it no longer becomes a question of "which one to use" (as is the case with Magic Weapons and Armor) but rather "how many can I cram into my list". And indeed every such item is squeezed in alongside the dispel scroll whenever possible; even sometimes at the expense of actual troops. But since they too are one-use only, they seldom see use unless the perfect opportunity comes along. The most notable example is the Hellheart, which can nuke several enemy wizards in a large radius, but the owner would try to maneuver the holder into such a position, while the enemy (as they would be allowed to know if a Hellheart was taken and who has it) would try to lead him on a merry chase, invoking this trope so that he might not lose even a single caster to it.
  • In Warhammer 40,000:
    • Several armies, most notably the Dark Eldar and Inquisitors of the Grey Knights faction, have weapons or items which are "one use" or "One Shot". They usually have a disproportionally high power compared to a reusable weapon/item of similar effect (such as a weapon that can simply negate something's existence as opposed to a really good, but still avoidable anti-tank weapon). However, their one use means that you have to pick and choose your moments, and, on top of that, because of the dice-based nature of the game you run the risk of having it not do anything at all. Certain items are also force multipliers, meaning you'll be trying to squeeze all your troops into its area of effect before setting it off, but this runs the risk of squeezing your army into one neat and tidy ball for your opponent's massive weapon.
    • In-universe, the Custodes for the Imperium. They are bar none the mightiest warriors in the Imperium, even stronger than the Space Marines. However, the Bio-Augmentation process used to create Custodes is so taxing that each Custodes is a huge investment for the Imperium. As a result, the Imperium can't risk losing a single one for any reason save defending the Golden Throne itself.
    • In-universe, Imperial Titans (not counting Imperial Knights) take centuries to construct, due to the veneration given to them by the Adeptus Mechanicus (The revered Emperor-Class Titan is implied to take a Millenium or two to actually make, or sometimes Lost Technology outright). As a result, even though a single titan can turn the tide of battle in the Imperium's favor, they're seldom used outside of defending their Forge World homes, so the act of deploying even a single Titan Maniple (which consist of only three titans) is considered a Godzilla Threshold just under that of Exterminatus. This also means that the Imperium will go to absurd lengths to recover even parts of a Titan, as repairing one is far quicker than building a new one.
  • In one of his Pyramid editorials, Stephen Marsh describes how he always wanted to have a game that revolved around awesome It Only Works Once abilities, but what he found was that his players never used them, either because they thought there might be a better use for them later, or because after a certain point you just forget that the option you never use is still an option, or simply because being the person who can unleash the Ultimate Attack at any moment is always going to be cooler than being the person who used the Ultimate Attack last week.

Non-gaming examples:

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Shirogane's family is quite poor, so he thought it would be nice to give his sister (Kei) a thousand-yen bill for her birthday. Yet, Kei is as frugal as the rest of her family note , so even though there are plenty of things she wants to buy, she doesn't use the money until chapter 119. Even then, it's indirectly for Shirogane's benefit: keeping her schoolmates from seeing his horrendous crimes against fashion.
  • In KanColle, Yamato is by far the most powerful ship girl in the entire fleet, wielding a massive array of BFGs capable of an One Hit Multi Kill. However, her power makes her an even larger drain on resources than Big Eater Akagi, forcing the Admiral to keep her in her base and out of combat unless it becomes absolutely necessary to field her.
  • In Killing Bites, simple college student Nomoto ends up with 300 million yen due to the plot events. Because of this trope, and how he earned it note , the suitcases holding it sit unused in a corner of his room for weeks, until he is almost murdered and has to live off the grid for three years. It's partly justified in that the money's value is not just financial; Nomoto wants a reminder that those events really happened, since they were so unbelievable. Knowing the money is there keeps him from going insane.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing gives this status to the Wing Gundam Zero, which was actually developed before any of the Gundams that appear earlier in the show, and is more powerful than all of them combined. The team of scientists who designed it decided it was grossly overpowered for what they wanted to use it for, and instead split up to each makes their own Gundam based on some aspect of Wing Zero's design.
  • Izuku Midoriya of My Hero Academia eventually realizes his issues controlling the Super-Strength of his power stem from this trope and the Centipede's Dilemma. Having only gotten his power in his teens, he viewed it as something special while his classmates, who have had their powers since kindergarten, used theirs as freely and naturally as they breathed. Midoriya begins to feel that to gain better control he has to use his power more often, rather than think of it as a trump card.
  • Outlaw Star: Caster gun shells certainly qualify. Because they are either rare or expensive (often both), Gene will go through his conventional weapons and cheaper/more plentiful caster shells before resorting to the more powerful variety of techno-magic in his arsenal... unless a specific threat demands otherwise.
  • In Rebuild World, CWH ammo is special heavy-duty ammunition designed for use with an anti-materiel rifle. It boasts amazing stopping power, allowing it to punch through the skulls of monsters the size of a small office building with ease and kill them even with their Healing Factor. But this power comes with a hefty price tag, forcing Akira to reserve it as a trump card against colossal and heavily armored enemies. Akira later gets other bullets like this, like anti-Deflector Shields rounds that cost millions per bullet, and Homing Projectile rounds. With the latter, Akira has a comedic reaction when Togami loads Reina's gun with them and she goes all out. Even later, Akira gets Antimatter rounds that cost a hundred million each, which almost makes him cry to fire. This amount of money is small change for some of Akira's squadmates, who were more concerned about them being extremely illegal.

    Fan Works 
  • Inverted when the All Guardsmen Party are given a small nuclear bomb during "The Xenotech Heresy". They decide it's too awesome not to use and swear that they'll detonate it no matter what happens.
  • In Carving Out a Future, most of the crew of Serenity are reluctant to use the new table Xander made for them because it was "too pretty to eat off of".
  • In The Havoc Side of the Force, Harry Potter is very reluctant to use any of his potions since he's stuck in a galaxy far, far away from anywhere he could restock, making them irreplaceable. Early on, he ponders saving his Felix Felicis since it's something he only wants to use for emergencies, given how hard it is to replace normally. Then he realizes that emergencies don't get much worse than being in an unknown time and place where he can't communicate with anyone.
  • Izuku in My Hero Playthrough is wary of spending his Talent Points in case a situation arises where he needs a specific Talent that he hasn't purchased yet. Though sometimes his Chronic Hero Syndrome makes him go the opposite way and spend his points needlessly, such as panicking and spending two points on American and Japanese sign language to apologize to the furious Cassandra Cain.
  • In Playing Our Roles, the Self-Insert in Roman Torchwick's body tends to hoard the stat points he gets from leveling up if there's any way he can improve a stat without spending them. By the time he decides he has to spend them, he has one hundred twenty-five to use.
  • XCOM: RWBY Within has Strike Team One and later Strike Eight who are the best of the best which makes command leery of using the entire team for one mission in case they're needed for another critical mission comes up when they're still on their mandated downtime. Also, until they develop a device to use Aura all the time, Strike Eight's members use a device that allows for Aura and Semblance usage for only ten seconds and only has a single-use. All of them hesitate to use their device on a mission because they might need it more later before they can head back to base.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Krull, the hero receives an awesome magical glaive weapon in the beginning of the film, but his mentor advises him not to use it until he needs it most. It sits on his saddle for the rest of the film until he faces the Big Bad.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: Polly has exactly one shot left in her camera... which she doesn't use (in spite of seeing a number of things considered impossible in the setting) because she might find something even more jaw-dropping. In the final scene of the film she finally takes the picture only for Sky Captain to reveal she forgot to take the lenscap off.
  • In This is Spın̈al Tap, Nigel Tufnel has a six-string Fender bass guitar, still in its wrapping, which has never been played. He says to Marty DiBergi: "Don't touch it! Don't even point at it!" Truth in Television: that instrument is a Fender Bass VI, of which only some 300 were ever made. They are Too Awesome to Use even in Real Life. Only two are known to exist in that Sea Foam Green color scheme.
  • In Van Helsing, one of Friar Carl's anti-vampire inventions is the "Light Bomb"; a glass grenade packed with unstable chemicals that will unleash enough light equal to the Sun if triggered...which leaves him wondering what he can use it for compared to Van Helsing's conventional arsenal. Much later in Dracula's Budapest holiday home when the heroes are being chased by hundreds of vampires, the Light Bomb is triggered which atomises every single vampire (aside from Dracula) and blows out every window in the mansion.
    Carl: Now I know what it's for!

  • Sorcerous Overlord Longshadow provides a villainous demonstration of this trope in the The Black Company series. He is recorded as hoarding numerous gewgaws, knickknacks, what's-its, and thingamabobs enough to leave your jaw unhinged. None of which are given greater purpose than collecting dust, even after his armies have been nigh obliterated, his fellow (allied) Shadowmasters have been offed (partly due to his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder), and he has the weight of the manhood of an Indian-esque scaling the walls of his incomplete mega doom fortress.
  • In Fred Saberhagen's Books of Swords trilogy and the sequel Books Of Lost Swords octology, Farslayer had this problem: its wielder could use it to kill anyone, anywhere in the world, even a demon or a god. The only problem was that it would remain lodged in the victim's heart, meaning that it would now be in the hands of whoever was nearest the victim when the Sword struck. It also leaves a trail pointing to you.
  • As a Commissar, Ciaphas Cain note  is authorized to kill or override the orders of anyone in the Imperial Guard, up to generals, with little oversight. One reason why he's a Reasonable Authority Figure is that he is careful not to abuse the privilege unless it's an emergency.
  • Fate/Apocrypha features Karna as one of the Servants, who by extension has access to the Vasavi Shakti, the javelin of the Sanskrit god Indra which he was promised one use of when he shed his armor and earrings, which made him invincible. This javelin is capable of killing gods, but to activate it he must permanently give up those same items, going from immortal to a Glass Cannon. And just like the myth, it's one-time use. He finally does use it at the climax of the War against Sieg!fried, but Astolfo uses Achilles's final Noble Phantasm Achilles Cosmos to block it. While it destroys the shield and leaves Astolfo badly injured, Sieg!fried takes advantage of Karna's weakened state and finishes him off.
  • This almost becomes the fate of Harry's Felix Felicis in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Having won it on the first day of class, Harry goes most of the year not using it, except in a Magic Feather plot to help Ron play well in their Quidditch match. All throughout the year, the notion of using it for various purposes crosses his mind, but he holds back, until he does eventually use it to gather an important memory from Professor Slughorn - and even then, only a teaspoon or so, to make the rest last.
  • The Lay of Paul Twister: In a flashback chapter, Paul Twister tells how he came to this realization. When he was abducted from modern-day Earth to a fantasy world, he was in his car at the time and it came along with him. Of course, In a World… with no gas stations, this marvel of modern transportation technology turned out to be useless. In true video game fashion, it ends up being saved for the final boss battle.
  • Lensman has this as part of the perpetual games of one-upmanship between its two main powers. Civilization always holds its newly-developed weapon prototypes back for truly decisive moments because they know their Boskonian rivals are capable of duplicating and developing countermeasures for them.
  • The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus: There is only one Mantle of Immortality, and the Big Good, Ak the Master Woodsman, proposes that it be given to the mortal Claus, called Santa Claus by the humans for his good deeds. The chief objection raised at the Council of the Immortals is that if they bestow it upon Claus, they can never give it to another should the need arise. Ak convinces his peers that if Santa Claus, the closest mortal ally of their kind, the Friend to All Children, the most selfless and generous human to ever live, doesn't deserve to join their ranks, no one ever will, and there may as well not be a Mantle of Immortality at all if they never use it.
  • In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy the metal atium can be this for Mistborn. It grants you Combat Clairvoyance and enhances your mind so well you're practically invincible, but it doesn't last very long, is incredibly expensive, and you need to swallow it to have access to it. If you swallow it and end up not needing to use it, good luck getting it back. While it doesn't happen in the series, it's a safe bet that a number of Mistborn have been killed trying to get through a fight without using their atium.
  • Invoked in Prince Caspian. Caspian is reluctant to use Susan's magic horn since there might be an even greater need for it in the future. Nikabrik points out that, by that argument, he will never use it until it is too late.note 
  • In Sandman Slim, during the time when he was Satan, Stark demanded guns from a wealthy devil worshipper. The worshipper gave him a number of guns including a "mare's leg" shotgun. As a pop-culture buff, Stark thought the mare's leg was fantastic but he couldn't bear to get have it damaged, so he elected to stash it rather than putting it to use.
  • In Starship Troopers Mobile Infantry units are sometimes equipped with 2-kiloton nuclear warheads, but the soldiers are instructed to not use them unless there's a valuable enough target (such as a starship) and they aren't absolutely sure no comrade will be caught in the blast (Rico had this literally whipped into him during basic training when he fired a simulated one by "eyeballing" it rather than using the targeting computer, and he still got away easy: by all rights, he should have been court-martialled and drummed out, but he was smart enough to not ask one when offered and was simply given a whipping). This of course causes Rico's problems during the raid on the Skinnies' planets, as he's been given two and their orders are to expend all their munitions (he hits a starship and a water-treatment plant).
  • In Wax and Wayne aluminum can't be detected or influenced through allomancy, making aluminum alloy guns and bullets the ideal materials for fighting allomancers. However, the process to cheaply produce aluminum has not yet been discovered, making the metal more expensive than gold. When a group of well-funded thieves find the place they're robbing defended by allomancers, none of them had their aluminum bullets loaded for fear of wasting them, and they have to spend crucial time switching over. The same thing happens to the main character when he has experimental bullets designed to be used against specific types of allomancers; he doesn't shoot at enemies because he doesn't want to use the bullets against the wrong person.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Amazing Race introduced the Express Pass in Season 17, which allows the team holding it to skip one task (or neutralize a U-Turn used on them) anytime in the first 8 legs of the Race.
  • In Auction Kings, one seller brought in a motorcycle with only a couple of miles on the odometer. This was the only time in the entire series that Paul was unable to test-ride a vehicle he sold.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): In the second-season episode Flight of the Phoenix, Chief Tyrol builds a specialized fighter with parts and carbon plating that make it invisible to DRADIS sensors, both human and Cylon alike. It gets used for a grand total of two missions (being piloted once by Kara, and once by Lee, and both times revolving around a plan to destroy a Resurrection Ship) before it's destroyed via a piece of debris that impacts it. For the rest of the series, Tyrol never bothers to make another one, even though it was mostly cobbled together from spare parts and gave the crew a morale boost.
  • Doctor Who: Ashildr, having been made immortal, is given a single second dose of her Immortality Inducer so she can give it to someone to accompany her through the ages. Eight hundred years later, losing her mind from loneliness and lack of purpose, she still hasn't used it because, well, you'd have to be really sure.
  • Masterchef Australia Season 12 only has 1 immunity pin for the entire season. Dani, who won the pin, was sent home on the third week of the competition when she was sent to the all-in elimination challenge because she thought it was too early to use the pin at that stage.
  • The Dutch version of The Mole introduced "jokers" in the later seasons that players can use to nullify incorrect answers on the test that determines which one of them will be executed, and they typically can hoard them to use on future tests when the margin of error is smaller. Many contestants have ended up executed when they still had a joker or two (or three or even four!) in their pockets because they either thought they were safe and didn't need them or wanted to save the jokers for when they'd really need them.
  • This is the basis for being "sponge-worthy" in Seinfeld. Elaine's preferred form of contraception, the contraceptive sponge, is being taken off the market, so she buys all that are available. But since her supply is limited, she has to choose which men are really worth sleeping with. She breaks up with her current boyfriend after deeming him to not be sponge-worthy.
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg became this for the show's creators. The Borg were so awesomely powerful (and impossible to negotiate with) that they only got used four times (6 episodes, because of 2-parters) over the entire 7 seasons of the show. It was just that hard to come up with a way to defeat the Borg without making them seem less awesome. Of those 4 times they face the Borg, they are saved once by essentially Divine Intervention, and once they are merely facing an individual drone and the challenge is to make him an individual (plus attempting not to tangle with the Borg ship coming for the rescue), not to defeat him. So the Enterprise crew only actually defeated the Borg twice during the run of the TV series; and one of those times was against a rogue faction of Borg under the command of Lore, so they only defeated the "true Borg" once. This averted the Badass Decay that the Borg did not encounter until they became staple enemies during Star Trek: Voyager
    • A first-season episode of Star Trek: Voyager establishes that the titular starship left DS-9 with 38 photon torpedoes and has no way to replenish them, suggesting that they have to be very careful with how they use them. Or not, as they go through their entire inventory and then some over the show's run, so they apparently did figure out how to make more of them.
  • Survivor introduced the Hidden Immunity Idol in Season 11, which can be played at almost any Tribal Council to be safe if one feels they are in danger. Many a contestant has gotten voted out with an idol in their pocket when they mistakenly thought they were safe for that round and decided to save it for later. The most infamous example was in Survivor: China were one of the contestants, James Clement, was in possession of two hidden immunity idols and was blindsided with both of them in his pocket. It was regarded as the dumbest Survivor move ever, until next season.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Ur-Example may well have been the Shakti weapon gifted to Karna by the rain God Indra in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Shakti weapon is unstoppable and is guaranteed to kill anyone it is fired at, but it can be used only once. Karna hopes to use it to defeat his archenemy Arjuna when he eventually duels him. Unfortunately for Karna and fortunately for Arjuna, Karna is forced to use the Shakti weapon to slay Ghattotgaja instead to save the Kaurava army from utter annihilation. This leaves him defenseless against Arjuna during their duel two days later.

    Web Animation 
  • Dorkly Originals has a video called "Mario's Rare Item", where Mario holds onto the Tanooki Suit forever and refuses to use it no matter how bad their situation is, insisting they save it "the perfect moment". 50 years later, Mario's son uses the Tanooki Suit that he inherited after he sees his first Goomba and loses it immediately.
  • RWBY:
    • Velvet is renowned for constantly taking bad pictures with her camera. However, that's because she's photographing everyone's weapons instead of them. Her weapon is designed to create one-use Hard Light projections from the photographs. Although this turns her into a One-Man Army, the photographs are gone after use, forcing her to rebuild her stock. As a result, she has to use the weapon sparingly and tactically.
    • Ozpin's cane possesses hidden abilities that he doesn't broadcast and never uses until Oscar activates it during a desperate situation. The cane has been storing kinetic energy over Ozpin's many lives. In Volume 8, Oscar unleashes most of the stored energy in a Fantastic Nuke that vaporises Salem and her army, allowing the heroes to save Atlas before she regenerates. He then warns everyone that they'll have to use the cane's remaining energy carefully.
  • Brawl in the Family creator Matthew Taranto wrote a song about this habit called "Megalixir'', wherein Terra Branford sings about how she'll never use her one and only Megalixir, becoming increasingly obsessed with it to the point of using a Rename Card to change her name to "Mrs. Megalixir", and refusing to use it even when her team is losing against the Final Boss.

  • In the early days of 8-Bit Theater, Red Mage treats everything like this. Even his own spell slots. This nearly gets him burned to death on at least one occasion.
  • Awkward Zombie:
    • Used in this installment, where Eliwood is reluctant to use even the most basic Healing Potions in case they're needed later, even when he has so many that he can't fit anything else in his bag. At which point he throws out one just to fit the one he's found in the bag, much to Hector's dismay.
      Eliwood: What if we need them later?
      Hector: I'm bleeding to death now!
    • Also referenced in the second-to-last panel of this comic, which provides the page image.
  • In Adventurers!, Karn saves Fire Shards to use against the Final Boss, against whom they do only 213 points of damage. For clarification: at that stage even their standard attacks do 9999 damage, making 213 points a drop in a bucket.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Elliot passes on using his mild-mannered alter ego even though it would be the best one to use in the situation he's in because he doesn't want Melissa knowing about it yet.
  • MS Paint Adventures' Problem Sleuth plays this repeatedly, with the same skill. When it is finally used, though, the move triggers an ending sequence that easily takes up the next 50 pages, if not more.
  • Discussed in this VG Cats comic.

    Web Original 
  • Laura Bailey of Critical Role enacts a classic example when wondering whether now would be the time to use her Arrows of Dragon Slaying, whether it would be a "waste" to use them now... against Umbrasyl the Hope Devourer, an ancient dragon. Naturally, everyone at the table yells at her, and she ends up using the arrows. Attribute it to either Laura/Vex's legendary stinginess with loot, or the fact that Umbrasyl works with three other dragons they'll have to fight later...
  • The SCP Foundation has a pill bottle with cure-all pills. There's a limited amount of them, there's no way to make more of them (not perfectly, at any rate. It's possible to duplicate them with SCP-038, but the duplicated pills are much less potent), and the re-usable alternative can turn you into an eldritch horror.
  • ProZD made a video parodying gamers who are so stingy with non-purchaseable items that they just hoard them and don't use them even when absolutely necessary.
    Player: I'm out of MP.
    Archibald: Then use an ether.
    Player: But... but you can't buy ethers.
    Archibald: It's the final battle!
    Player: But I only have 85 of them—
  • Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation refers to this as the "But I might need it later" syndrome, and notes that with the advent of New Game Plus, "later" might not even be the final boss battle.
    So we have scenarios where you're sitting on a nuclear stockpile to shame North Korea and are throwing peas at a giant robot crab on the off-chance that there might be a bigger giant robot crab just around the corner. No game illustrates this phenomenon better than Mercenaries 2, or as I like to call it, Airstrikes 2: Hooray for Airstrikes.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in The Amazing World of Gumball RPG Episode "The Console". Gumball doesn't want to use his one potion during the Final Boss battle because he thinks he might need it later.
  • The Looney Tunes cartoon "Show Biz Bugs" has Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck competing to see who can perform the best vaudeville acts. Bugs always wins, much to Daffy's chagrin. Every act that Bugs performs results in wild applause from the audience, while Daffy's performances result in Chirping Crickets. Finally, Daffy announces he is going to perform the most amazing act ever—one that is guaranteed to astound the audience. He dresses up in a devil outfit and starts drinking various flammable liquids and substances, such as gasoline, gunpowder, and Uranium-238. He jumps up and down to shake them up, then lights and consumes a match. The resulting huge explosion triggers huge applause from the audience. Bugs commends Daffy for the success of his act, and then we see Daffy's ghost saying that the act has only one problem—"I can only do it once!"
  • Played with in The Transformers: The Movie. Each successive leader of the Autobots is the caretaker of the Matrix of Leadership, an ancient one-use-only artifact prophesied to "light their darkest hour" with its immense power. It turns out, however, that the artifact's holder cannot actually choose when it to use it, as the characters mistakenly believe at first. Later in the series, this is played straight when Optimus is forced to open the Matrix to eradicate the Hate Plague afflicting the galaxy; as the Matrix's accumulated eons of knowledge are what could ultimately destroy the plague, Optimus using it this way left it as nothing more than an empty metal container.
  • Inverted on The Visionaries. The characters' magic staffs could each only be used once before needing to be recharged by local wizard Merklynn, who would only do it in exchange for going on a dangerous quest for him. None the less, every time they finally got the staffs recharged, they rarely seemed to show the slightest hesitation at burning them out again at the drop of a hat.

    Real Life 
  • Shortly before World War I, Britain and Germany began bulking up their navy fleet with a new class of powerful battleships called "Dreadnoughts", after HMS Dreadnought, the first of the type. By the time the war started, both sides had dozens of them. However, the Dreadnoughts were so valuable that neither side was willing to risk them by putting them out to sea. Both sides mainly used them as a deterrent against the other, using their mere presence as a way to keep the other side from risking theirs. Only once during the entire war did Dreadnoughts fight each other, at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. No Dreadnought from either side was sunk by enemy cannon fire or torpedoes during the entire war, though one of them, HMS Audacious, was sunk by a mine in 1914.
  • The famous Japanese "super-battleships" Yamato and Musashi had this problem. Though incredibly powerful assets, the IJN had a very specific view of their role; being the main hitting power in a Kantai Kessen, a massive surface engagement that would decide the war after Japan had whittled away America's more vulnerable assets like carriers, submarines, and destroyers. Sortie-ing early was thought to be a waste of Japan's limited fuel supplies, so they were held back for most of the early part of the war when America was on the back foot because the conditions for the kantai kessen hadn't yet been met... and they never would, as the Pacific was too big, the Americans were too good at recovering from any losses, and Japan never achieved the air victories it needed. The only meaningful sortie of either sister was the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where neither would encounter enemy battleships. Musashi would be sunk by air raids, and Yamato would encounter the escort group Taffy 3 (Though she could have faced off against Iowa, if Admiral Halsey hadn't been completely distracted by the decoy Northern Force and hadn't ignored Taffy 3's increasingly desperate requests for backup). She would sink several ships in the ensuing Battle Off Samar, but Admiral Kurita ended up turning back because he thought the exceptionally fierce resistance meant that he was fighting the main American fleet. Yamato would later also be sunk by air attack while she was on her way to Okinawa, where she was supposed to beach herself and act as a shore battery against the expected American invasion.
  • The sister ships Bismarck and Tirpitz were supposed to be unsinkable invincible killing machines, and in any event were insanely expensive assets. When the Germans tried to avert the trope by sending Bismarck out to raid convoys in the Atlantic, she wound up sunk by overwhelming Royal Navy power, and while she gave a very good accounting of herself by sinking HMS Hood, she was never able to attack any convoys. Because of both this outcome and the events of Operation Chariot (where the only drydock in France big enough to fit the Bismarcks was destroyed by a commando raid), it was deemed too risky to send Tirpitz out to the Atlantic like her sister, and she spent the rest of the career camouflaged in the fjords of Norway, waiting for an attack that never came before planes carrying Tall Boy bunker busters caught Tirpitz and sank her.
    • On the other hand, the two Bismarck-class were a good demonstration of the Fleet In Being concept, an aversion of this trope. The idea is a fleet which harms the enemy by its mere existence, as the enemy will have to devote more resources to countering every way the ships might be used than it costs to build the ships and have them do nothing. The force that ultimately defeated Bismarck consisted of an aircraft carrier (Ark Royal, with the carrier Victorious putting in an earlier appearance but failing to damage the battleship or participate in the final action), two battleships (Rodney and King George V), one battlecruiser (Reknown), two heavy cruisers (London and Norfolk), a light cruiser (Sheffield) and eight destroyers (including one very cheeky Polish destroyer, ORP Piorun, that engaged Bismarck at point-blank range while using its signal lamp to flash 'I am a Pole'), and that's not counting the force that intercepted her at Denmark Straight, where Hood was sunk and Prince of Wales damaged. Meanwhile, Tirpitz cost the Allies multiple flights of bombers over Norway, and a scare about her showing up forced the arctic convoy PQ-17 to scatter, leaving them easy pickings for the other German forces that were actually in the area.note 
  • When Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Red Army had 967 T-34 tanks. This was a brand new model with firepower, mobility, and protection superior to anything the Germans had at the time, and it was eventually supposed to replace the Red Army's vast numbers of obsolete BT and T-26 tanks. The problem was that the T-34 had severe teething troubles, with the design and manufacture of its components starting out highly flawed. Transmissions broke very frequently, and the engine would fail after just one hundred hours of operation. The military was afraid to let tankers practice driving them because if they were operated they would break, and then they wouldn’t be ready in case of a war. Therefore they only allowed fifty T-34s to be operated, while the rest were kept parked in the motor pools. This led to a double problem during Barbarossa, since the tanks were unreliable, and the guys crewing them were unfamiliar with their use.
  • The interwar-designed United States Mark 14 torpedo had multiple crippling design flaws with the guidance and detonation systems, which were not discovered because these torpedoes were so expensive and being produced so slowly that the higher-ups were unwilling to destroy any by performing realistic tests. The uselessness of the unproven torpedoes was discovered at the worst possible time, in combat with the Imperial Japanese Navy. At which point Bureau of Ordnance continued to forbid any live testing of the torpedoes, seemingly more interested in covering up any problems than in winning the war. Thus, submarine captains started defying those orders and doing unauthorized testing of their own, along with making unauthorized modifications to the torpedoes in hopes of fixing the problems. It was eventually realized that in addition to the submarine-launched Mark 14, the Mark 15 torpedo arming US Navy destroyers had all the same problems, that went unnoticed for exactly the same reason.note 
  • The "bouncing bomb" of 1943 was viewed by British strategic planners as such a devastating weapon that there were real fears that if the Germans captured one, or figured out how it worked, they would use it against its originators. After 1945, this fear transferred itself to the Russians. Therefore, it remained a classified weapon well into The '60s, and its portrayal in the classic war movie was made deliberately misleading so that nothing useful could be gleaned from a trip to the cinema.
  • Rare coins and dollar bills:
    • The 2-dollar bill. Some people give them as gifts, knowing that the recipient will keep it for this reason. Even though they are rare in circulation, they aren't actually rare at all. The U.S. Treasury has been sitting on shrink-wrapped piles of them for years, but banks rarely ask for them. Strip clubs, on the other hand, love to use them to make the change as it encourages bigger tips.
    • On the other end of the scale are $50 and $100 dollar bills, to the point where most shops refuse to accept them. However, there is a good reason for this: the bills are worth so much that if a cashier were to attempt to make the change for a $100 bill, it is likely that they would run out of lesser bills so that the store cannot make any more change for the rest of the day. Also, larger bills like that are the main target of counterfeiters, as they obviously are more worth the effort.
    • To hard-core numismatistsnote , Sacagawea and Eisenhower dollars are no different than the change we have in our pockets. However, there are other dollar coins made from precious metals that you would be an idiot to spend at face-value. A $3 gold coin (yes, they really exist) minted in 1854 and in near perfect condition (MS-67) is worth at least $95,000. A Flowing Hair Half Dollar minted in 1794 in MS-64 condition is worth over $450,000. There are even platinum coins out there. A platinum Eagle ($10) minted in 2000 is worth $7500 in perfect (MS-70) condition. But then, bullion coins like that aren't meant to ever be spent at their nominal face value. An ounce of platinum, no matter the condition, is worth upward of $1000.
    • This also goes for the Japanese ¥2000 note. Just having one is a conversation point, and no one ever spends them if they can avoid it.
    • The same mentioned for the $50 and $100 dollar bills happens for €100, €200, and €500 notes. Quite a number of shops do not accept them, since they'd run out of change and especially the two last ones are so much money that is very hard to find themnote . Also, the European Central Bank has announced that the €500 note will be phased out as it is frequently used for money laundering.
    • The British £5, £10 and £20 coins.
    • The Canadian one and two dollar bills were legal tender until 2021, even though they were replaced by loonies and toonies (one- and two-dollar coins) over twenty years earlier since they are cheaper to keep in circulation because they stay in good condition for decades longer than paper banknotes. The bills are now kept by people old enough to have used them when they were still in circulation. Similarly, 50-cent pieces are still legal tender, but are no longer in circulation (in part because they are similar in size and weight to loonies, confusing vending machines), instead being minted for sale to collectors. Collector's coins, put out every year or so, are also carefully hoarded.
    • Some Israeli coins have on their reverse side the picture of the person who used to be on the corresponding bill before it was devalued. Many of them are relatively easy to find, but the one Shekel coin with Maimonides has effectively disappeared from circulation years ago.note 
    • During the transition from paper to plastic 5 and 10-pound notes, new notes with certain serial numbers became extremely collectible and worth far more than their face value, making them basically unspendable. Serial numbers of special interest included ones that began with AA and ones that began with AK47.
  • Nuclear weapons are insanely powerful, but practically the only justification for using a nuclear weapon is someone else using one first. Thankfully, this still remains a valid trope in this context, though then again, once it's invalidated there probably wouldn't be anyone left to read TV Tropes...
  • Food, bizarrely enough. Rare or prized foods such as expensive cuts of meat, ingredients like truffles, caviar, or saffron, all get saved for special events. The problem with this is most foods have an expiry date, so sitting on them until the perfect occasion can result in a great deal of wasted food. This can also apply on a lesser scale to things like leftovers, where one waits until one needs them to eat them, by which point they've usually gone bad. Rare and aged wines tend to fall into this category as well. Some wines are specifically meant to be aged a long time before they're ready to drink, but leave them sitting around for too long and you've just got a really expensive bottle of vinegar.
  • Rh-negative blood. It's the universal donor, meaning anyone of any blood type can take Rh-negative blood and have it work. But someone with Rh-negative blood can't take anything except Rh-negative blood, so hospitals rarely use donated Rh-negative blood in case an Rh-null a patient comes in and needs a transfusion or an emergency when there is no time to determine blood type.
  • Sports cars, especially higher-end ones, can fall into this easily, as using them gradually wears them down over long-term use thus reducing the resale value (just like any other car) and they're an attractive target for car thieves and vandals when they're out in public. Also, getting one of these in an accident will be an insurance and repair cost nightmare compared to getting an ordinary coupe or minivan in one (still bad, but at least they're cheaper to fix and replacement parts for them are more common). As a result, these types of cars end up being status symbols for a number of owners rather than everyday driving machines (on top of being fuel-inefficient and speed limits preventing them from being used to their full potential unless one takes them to a closed racetrack).
  • Within the Australian Military, the Armored Corps (which are equipped with expensive M1-Abrams tanks) are jokingly called "Koalas." The joke is that Koalas are valuable, but useless in the long run because they can't be exported or shot at.
  • The Russian T-14 Armata tank and SU-57 stealth fighter were hyped by Russian state media as the ultimate weapons that surpass their Western counterparts. The T-14 boasts a completely remote-controlled turret—allowing the remaining crew to be encased in a separate armored capsule inside the hull—and the tank incorporates the Afghanit hard-kill active protection system to intercept incoming projectiles. The SU-57 blends futuristic stealth systems with modern avionics and extreme maneuverability. Yet despite their formidable reputation and potential capabilities, both vehicles were completely absent from the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian War due to low production rates. As there were too few T-14s and SU-57s to make a meaningful strategic difference, Russian commanders relegated them to operating inside Russian borders out of fear that they could be destroyed or captured in Ukraine. The latter would result in Ukraine's western supporters getting an opportunity to extensively study the weapons, thus potentially figuring out any weaknesses and copying any strengths. And the former would be embarrassing, and hinder Russia's attempts to sell their weapons to allies and non-aligned nations.
  • The United States and several of its global rivals have developed powerful cyberweapons based around "zero-day" vulnerabilities, which are are security holes in certain pieces of software which neither the developers of the software nor the public know about yet. Because the victims of the cyberattack didn't know that this weakness exists, they will have no defense prepared against it the first time it is used. One thing that keeps these cyberweapons from being used more often is the fact that there are a limited number of such exploits, and a given exploit can only be used once before the global community finds out about it and all vulnerable systems are patched. Another reason is that reckless use of cyberweapons against another country's economy, military, or infrastructure could set off escalation and retaliation in kind. Therefore, a bunch of countries are probably holding back their most powerful cyberweapons until some Godzilla Threshold is crossed.
  • High-powered pain killers, such as morphine. Yes, they are really good at stopping pain and feel good as well, but can't just be used whenever the patient wants, as there is a risk of addiction, as well as causing constipation and other digestive problems.
  • Napoleon's Old Guard were a feared group of soldiers, nicknamed the "Immortals", for their unbreaking moral and fighting ability. However, Napoleon rarely actually used them except to intimidate the enemy, as the Old Guard would be hard to replace and if they ever actually lost their reputation would be gone in an instant. During the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon sent the Old Guard forward at the end of the fight when all other options had been extinguished. They lost and their reputation was gone.
  • Using intercepted and decrypted information can give you a tremendous advantage, but it also blatantly demonstrates to the enemy that you can break their encryption if that's the only way you could have known, in which case they'll change their codes and you'll have to do the whole thing over again. In the case of the famous Zimmermann Telegram, the British had to bribe a Mexican telegraph employee for information they already possessed to create a cover story for how they knew. And during World War II, they went to great lengths to hide the fact that they had cracked the German Enigma coding machine, sometimes even taking no action on their foreknowledge of major German attacks.
    • They were similarly cautious about using the "Double Cross System"note  to feed fake information to Germany. They made sure to also include some real and genuinely useful information to be leaked back to Germany, so that nobody in Germany would suspect their spies had become double agents.
  • Some pipe organs have powerful stops which must never be used because they are in danger of damaging the building, especially in cathedrals.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): But What If I Need It Later



The warships too expensive to use in an actual war.

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Main / TooAwesomeToUse

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