Do Well, But Not Perfect

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Regiment: If I may criticize: it should be "Do Well But Not Perfectly".
Dark Sasami: But that would make the title perfect.


Describe Do Well, But Not Perfect here, but be sure to inlcude at least one error!

Sometimes the objective of a game (or the player) is to do well - but not perfectly. This annoys people who absolutely must get a perfect score every time. Oftentimes, the butter zone of "good enough" is unforgivably tiny, meaning that the player has little chance of achieving it without some very carefully balanced playing. Crazy as it seems, getting an imperfect score deliberately might be difficult, resulting in it being more difficult to get the rewards for completing the so-called "easier" objectives than it is to be rewarded for the difficult ones.

Note that this trope doesn't refer to situations where the player's goal is to achieve a "decent-or-above" score. It refers to points where the player's goal is to achieve a very specific range of scores which require you to make certain errors at specific, but unmentioned, points.

Compare Second Place Is for Winners.

Examples of Do Well, But Not Perfect include:

Anime and Manga

  • Invoked in The Kindaichi Case Files. In one story, Kindaichi reveals the murderer by having all of the suspects take a multiple choice test, with all of the questions secretly pertaining to the case (For example, asking where one would buy a certain type of rope, with that type of rope being what was used in the murders). All of the suspects did an average job on the test...except for one, who got every single question wrong. It turned out that she was the murderer and, in deliberately failing the test to try to clear her name, she just proved her guilt (with other evidence provided after).
  • In Hikaru no Go (and in actual Go), this is what you have to do in order to have a tied game, although it can happen by accident. It's treated as something only high-level players can do every time.

Fan Works


  • Many superheroes need to learn to do this in order to fit in with friends and/or protect their secret identities. In The Incredibles, Dashiell "Dash" Parr's power of Super Speed prevents him from participating in school track competitions until he learns to hold back enough to finish in second place.

Game Shows

  • This is often regarded as the best overall strategy behind the game show The Weakest Link. Do too poorly and your competitors will want to vote you off for holding the team back. Do too well and your competitors may be more likely to vote you off due to seeing you as a potential competitive threat in the later rounds.
    • This also holds true to any show that involves teamwork and voting people out. Weak players are easily voted off of the show but players who perform strongly every time will also be sent up for elimination so that they can't win at the end.
    • But in a game with the possibility to win immunity from elimination, doing perfect will ensure being in the endgame.
  • The original Dutch version of 1 vs. 100 awarded money on each question based on the percentage of the remaining Mob eliminated, not the absolute number of mob members eliminated. This resulted in a system where the longer the One drags out the game, the more money he/she would win if he/she successfully defeated the entire Mob.[1] This means that the best-case scenario occurs by eliminating the Mob one member at a time over the course of at least 100 questions, answering every single question correctly and using the Double on the question which eliminates the last Mob member; doing so would net the One a bit over €309,000.
    • In the American version, this trope was at first partially averted: it was still beneficial to knock out a greater number of Mob members at higher levels, but the prize for taking out the entire mob was $1,000,000 no matter what. In later seasons, the trope was fully averted: a fixed cash prize was awarded for every 10 Mob members the One knocked out.
  • On The Bank Job, at the very end of the series, the two "winners" were given the Prisoner's Dilemma choice in the form of giving each other a briefcase full of "Cash" or "Trash". if both chose "Cash", they'd split the jackpot, if one chose "Trash" and the other "Cash", the player who chose "Trash" gets it all and the player who chose "Cash" leaves empty-handed, and if both chose "Trash", they'd both leave with nothing. So far, it's a standard Prisoner's Dilemma, but here's the twist: If both chose "Trash", the money they had and lost would be split evenly between the players who were eliminated in 3rd through 5th place, so as to prevent the entire series from turning into a Shaggy Dog Story. Since the equilibrium in the Prisoner's Dilemma occurs when both players defect (in this case, choosing "Trash"), the runners-up splitting the money becomes arguably the most likely scenario, which meant the optimal strategy would be trying to get 3rd, 4th, or 5th place. In fact, one of the finalists knew this, and it would certainly explain why several contestants who previously proved themselves skillful at the trivia portion suddenly started to perform significantly worse the instant they started the round of 5.


  • In the Marine Corps novels by W.E.B. Griffin, the veteran marines know that when a unit undergoes inspection, the inspector will not stop looking around until he finds something wrong. So they make a point of having a handful of obvious minor issues with whatever is being inspected so that the inspection ends quickly and they can get back to doing something useful.
  • The Groundhog Day Loop novel Replay. On subsequent replays Jeff tries to avoid investments that would turn him into a multi-millionaire to keep himself out of the spotlight.

Tabletop Games

  • In the party game Dixit, the "leader" in each round chooses a card with a piece of abstract art on it, and thinks up a word or phrase that fits that picture. The other players choose their own cards that they think fits the phrase, then vote on which card they think best fits. The leader scores points for getting players to vote for their card, but doesn't score any points if all the other players voted for their card.
  • The tabletop roleplaying game Teenagers from Outer Space has the "When too much is too much" rule - roll too well on a skill roll and the success will have unfortunate (for the character) repercussions. The Japanese saying about "the nail that sticks up gets pounded down" definitely applies to this game.

Video Games

  • Advance Wars DS and Days Of Ruin have medals requiring B-Ranks and C-Ranks. Good luck getting those naturally, especially since the levels in those games are mostly easy.
    • Also in Game Boy Wars 3, some maps in Campaign are only accessed by clearing certain other maps slowly. If you clear those certain other maps quickly, you don't unlock both maps. Just the one obtained by clearing the map quickly.
  • One of the medals in Valkyria Chronicles can only be obtained by having one of your characters die, permanently. You also need to have certain specific characters be reduced to 0 HP and evaced by a medic to unlock some of the secret ones.
  • Kirby's Dream Land 2's not-so-perfect ending is the only way you can learn the enemy names in that game, and you can only see it by defeating Dedede without collecting all of the Rainbow Drops.
    • Kirby's Dream Land 3 also features an enemy bestiary in its "imperfect" ending.
  • Odin Sphere has you correctly guess in which order you have to play through the final Boss Rush to get the good ending. In reality, you're supposed to mess it up on purpose to see every possible outcome and collect every cutscene in the game, which is the only way to get the Golden Ending. So there's no real need for correctly chaining the boss fights, since you'll have to go through every possible combination to get every cutscene, one way or another.
  • Mega Man Battle Network, and later Mega Man Star Force: When you re-match the bosses for their summon chips, winning in 30 seconds gets you the most powerful variation of the chip. 60 seconds or more gets you the weakest variation. Somewhere in the middle is the middle variation. So you either obliterate the boss in 30 seconds, or drag out the battle, but not too long.
    • Battle Network also applies for for chips from viruses, as some codes can only be obtained with a low rank, and specific codes are an important part of folder-building. You can also calculatedly take a couple hits and obliterate the boss/virus otherwise.
  • In order to fight special opponents in Puyo Puyo 2, you need to beat all the opponents on a floor while keeping your score below a certain point, or else you go to the next floor.
  • This is done intentionally in Mother 3. To "amuse" Porky, the villain, you must almost beat his robot, but not quite. If you beat him to any degree, you're told that you tried too hard and need to chill. If you lose too badly, you're told you suck and need to try again. If you intentionally let him win by the slightest possible amount, you're told it was "an epic battle" or some similar expression and move on to the next challenge you're supposed to barely lose.
  • Any minigame where you get a reward for breaking your old record. I'm looking at you, Super Mario RPG Goomba stomping.
    • Project Gotham Racing 4 has an achievement "Play it Again Sam", awarded for improving on a medal that you've already won in an event, thus requiring your first medal in that event to be one of the lesser medals.
  • The Elite Beat Agents and Ouendan games have different cutscenes for failing level segments and the entire level, and most of them are worth seeing. It's not quite as easy as you'd think, though, since you can't clearly see the point where you fail or pass the level segment (making it easy to hit a note at the end of a segment by accident and push the rating bar over to "pass" when you thought not hitting it would cause it to empty completely) and doing poorly will easily cause you to get a game over instead, not to mention that you need to fail every level segment to get the bad ending for the level.
    • Another version of this trope starts appearing in Elite Beat Agents and Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Tamashii: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2. EBA introduced a vs. Ghost mode, in which you challenge the best saved score you have on a particular song—this manifests as a vs. battle. If you do too well in setting a high score, you will have a lot of trouble beating yourself.
      • Furthermore, within the battle itself, you can get points by a perfect 300 run on a particular section of the beatmap, and half a point for getting even a single 100. Gain three or four points and you go into a sort of super mode, increasing your performance while decreasing the opponent's. If you do better than your original score in some points, you'll hit this mode one section before your opponent. They then hit the next one, making you lose the cutscene checkpoint.
      • Also, whenever the opponent does that to you, the numbers and trails become smaller and harder to hit. If you want to mitigate this, you'll have to do exactly as well as your opponent until just before the end.
  • You could unlock different weapons in Replay Mode in Parasite Eve 2 depending on your ending score. Some good items required low scores.
    • Only the lowest possible rank nets you an arguably better item than the rank above it. However, getting the lowest possible rank is a challenge in and of itself, as you have to flee every battle so as to not rack up points by killing things. Using this method, you not only have to be able to dodge virtually every enemy in the game without getting hit, you're also forced to take on every boss in the game with the weakest weapon.
      • There is actually a way around that—Beat the game twice in a row with the best possible rating. The game will only ever give you a specific reward one time; if you ever got a repeated "Rank", you would get the reward for the next HIGHER Rank; this carries over. In other words: Getting the best possible Rank twice in a row (assuming you are not playing in a mode that alters the Rankings) will give you the "best Rank" rewards and the "worst Rank" rewards. The latter set borders on Game Breaker territory in some ways.
  • In Final Fantasy II, (or at least the PSP version), this trope is in full effect when leveling characters. Due to the...unique nature of the game's Stat Grinding system, the odds of getting a stat boost after any one battle is directly proportional to the length of the battle. The idea, one suspects, is to prevent players from grinding low-level monsters indefinitely, but the end result is being punished for fighting battles as efficiently as possible, whereas if you artificially prolong the fight (a common strategy is to put enemies to sleep to prevent them from running away, then abusing fellow party members), the odds of getting a stat boost increase almost to the point of guarantee. This can be maddening to a certain kind of gamer... which is to say a sapient one.
  • Final Fantasy VII had a minigame where the second best prize was arguably better than the "best" one, leading some people to screw up on purpose.
    • Also in Final Fantasy VII, there is a mini-game where you have to prevent soldiers from reaching a fort. Failing to do this causes a fight against the boss with the regular characters. Normally, you get the proper reward only if you complete the mini-game, and you lose it if you have to fight the boss, win or lose. However, the one time this mini-game is plot-mandated, the normal reward is given if you complete the mini-game or beat the boss. And as it turns out, you can get a rare and powerful piece of armor by defeating the boss at this point (and never before this point), and the boss is pretty easy. A savvy character will lose the mini-game on purpose the final time, since there's no benefit in winning.
    • There's also the entire endgame, where the first boss battle determines how the next two play out: Depending on how quickly the player beats the first boss, what levels the player's characters have and how many Optional Party Members the player has found, the second battle will have the player split into one to three teams, with the main team continuing into the final boss battle solo. Both the final and penultimate bosses also gain HP boosts for every character in the game with maximum levels, and if the player uses Knights of the Round on the first boss.
  • Final Fantasy VIII's first task is to defeat Ifrit within a selected-by-you time limit. You wouldn't know this, but scoring well on this test requires finishing with less time remaining -- a perfect score is reached if you finish with ten seconds or less remaining on the clock. This is because the test is described as a "test of judgment"; since you are the one who sets the time limit, completing it too soon means you could not accurately estimate your abilities and gave yourself too much time.
    • In the Japanese version, you have to kill Ifrit and escape the dungeon before you run out of time, making the whole experience more of a test of time management rather than rationality (plus it serves as a Chekhov's Gun for something you'll be doing later in the story).
    • Even if you give yourself the lowest amount of time possible, your score will still drop if you kill Ifrit too soon. The best score requires you to finish with seven seconds or less on the clock, which means most people will end up letting Ifrit beat on them for a while (you can still get a game over if he's talking when the timer runs out, though).
  • Final Fantasy IX: In "The Festival of the Hunt" minigame, the goal is to earn the most points of all the competitors by killing monsters in the streets. If you (playing as Zidane) win, you get 5000 gil. If Vivi wins, you get a useless Tetra Master card. Letting Freya win, however, nets you a decent elemental-absorbing accessory that teaches your characters a few useful skills. To let her win, just put the controller down for 12 minutes or kill yourself in the first battle you come across.
That said, the toughest monster in the Festival of the Hunt, the Zaghnol, has two items worth stealing and gives about enough points to single-handedly win the competition. By avoiding lesser battles, entering a certain area with 4:30 left on the timer, and making Zidane take a fall against the Zaghnol, the player can get all of the items.
  • Final Fantasy X's entire experience system revolved around this. If you use the right character and end a battle in one turn, you'd get 1/7 the maximum amount of AP, as only characters who act in battle get any AP at all, and it's not split. Conversely, if you waste six turns (using a different character each time) and use the seventh to end the battle, then every character gets full experience.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2, the best culprit to pin during the Mi'ihen Mystery is Rikku if you're aiming for 100% completion. One of the criteria for catching this person requires a certain cutscene that can only be seen if you almost catch the Chocobo during Chapter 2. If you catch it or let it get away without resistance, it becomes far more difficult (if not impossible) to accuse that person.
    • Later, during the massage minigame, you obtain a prize of a Gold Hairpin if you succeed on the first attempt. If you fail at least once, though, you obtain Heady Perfume, which is arguably a more useful accessory.
    • The first time you play the "Gunner's Gauntlet" minigame/mission, completion of the timed course and a score of 500 are necessary to pass the mission. It can be replayed to achieve a higher score and additional prizes. On a New Game+, however, when you get to this mission again, the required score is now your high score from your previous playthrough[s].
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, you get experience and skill points every time you successfully execute an action. Because of this, it can be very beneficial to prolong a fight by casting Sleep or Frog on the last remaining enemy and then take turns beating on your own guys with Throw Rock or a weak physical attack (if you're a caster). Other effective and non-damaging ways to up experience include the squire job Accumulate and Ramza's Yell skill. Completing the battles quickly and efficiently nets you far less points.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics A2, one of the Bangaa Bugle missions gives you a different item for completing the quest in a certain number of turns. Completing it in 3 or less gives you an item which is rare but obtainable by other methods, while completing it in exactly 4 gives you an item which could otherwise only be obtained by choosing it over an item whose alternate method of collection is much more difficult to achieve.
    • There are goals in auctions you can only achieve by getting 2nd and 3rd place when bidding for a territory or item a certain number of times.
  • In-order to see the multiple ends of Resident Evil (both the original and the remake) you must let certain characters die. Also depending on if you want a certain character's gun you should let them die so you can pick it up earlier than normal.
    • Similarly, unlocking gaiden chapters in Fire Emblem DS requires you to let your people get killed - including Chiki, a butt-kicking dragon girl that I doubt anyone would just let go of. Getting that last level also requires losing the Falchion if you got the good one. (The official strategy guide suggests giving her the Falchion, sending her off to die, then bringing her back with the Aum staff the hidden level holds.) At least Nagi makes up for it.
  • In Front Mission Alternative, failing the final mission unlocks a new mission with a better ending.
  • In Meteos, the only way to get the worst ending in Multi-Path is to allow an incredibly easy opponent to survive for a certain amount of time before defeat. This is complicated by the fact that the opponent can die without you doing anything to it.
  • In the Carmen Sandiego books written in a "which way" format (similar to Choose Your Own Adventure), you would be reprimanded if your score at the end was too good. Getting such a score would require you to not "waste time" looking for clues, the implication being that you're either very reckless, or memorized the answers before playing.
  • Early in the original Knights of the Old Republic game you are forced to participate in a swoop race in order to rescue Bastila, who has been captured and is being offered as a prize to whoever wins the race. After your first successful completion of the track with a better time than the current record another racer will then perform slightly better than your time, requiring you to run the track again and beat your own best time by a fair margin. Granted, you are warned there will be other players, but not that one of them will always be better than your first run. Unless, of course, you know in advance.
  • Julius Mode in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is only unlocked by seeing the second bad ending, which is only shown if you enter the room in the Garden of Madness that is locked by the 5th magic seal without having Mina's Talisman equipped. The game does give you an out if you missed this by unlocking the mode automatically at the end of the credits following the good ending, but if you want to see it unlocked as it's meant plot-wise (including a short accompanying Cutscene), it's a case of this.
  • For many racing and sports games that have Rubber Band AI, it seems easier to hang back and play poorly until the very end where you can score a last minute victory. This can infuriate players who are used to the idea of "play your hardest", only to be punished for doing too well, whereas playing badly makes the game easy enough to score a win eventually.
  • In Dance Dance Revolution and other rhythm games, "x Attacking" is the process of trying to get as many of a certain judgement below perfect as possible (the most common variant is "Great Attacking", "Great" being the judgement below perfect in DDR). This is actually harder than playing the game for real, since you have to be just a little off the beat, consistently. It's usually a Self-Imposed Challenge, but In The Groove acknowledges Great Attacks.
    • Pop'n music has the "ALL GOOD" norma, which requires you to get all Goods. It's very difficult to do, so it's no surprise that it's a 15-point norma.
      • There is also a slightly easier norma which requires you clear a song with a full meter and a maximum of 25,000 (out of 100,000) points. Getting all Goods would get you exactly 20,000 points and a full meter, so even with a full combo you can occasionally get a Great.
    • One of the top-tier challenges in the PSX version of DDR 4th Mix's Challenge Mode was to clear a specific section of a song without a single Perfect or Great. This required Good Attacking the song, as a Boo or Miss would lower your gauge, and you fail if it empties, while the only way to raise it is to get Perfects or Greats. Another challenge required getting all Goods on a (much shorter) section.
      • DDR Extreme US PlayStation 2 had you do a section with zero points, basically the same thing (you can't get any Greats or Perfects at all, and any Boos or Misses would drain your health).
    • PlayStation 2 versions of beatmania IIDX often have gallery pictures unlocked by clearing a song in Expert Mode with 18% or less on your gauge at the end (note that you fail if it empties at any time), another for finishing with more than 80% but not 100%, and three more for ranges in between.
      • beatmania IIDX and at least one version of Beatmania III offer the Border Bonus: Finish the song with your meter filled just barely enough to pass, and you'll get a bonus of 5730 points. There are also higher bonuses if you combine this with getting all Greats or higher, or all Just Greats.
    • This is basically the (unimaginative) point of half of the World Max mission mode in Pump It Up. Quite a few other missions have some incredibly clever gameplay mechanics though, or some alternative stepcharts that are so fun they should probably be illegal.
  • Flash Flash Revolution has/had a number of unlockable achievements based on getting fewer "Perfect" arrow hits, more Goods and Averages, or minimum numbers of Misses and Boos.
  • One strategy for getting through God Hand is to deliberately manipulate the Dynamic Difficulty by letting yourself take hits now and then. Landing hits raises the difficulty, while taking them lowers it; since you really don't want to face bosses at Level Die, this becomes a game of give-and-take.
    • Similarly, Battle Garegga requires the player to die a certain amount of times, or the rank will get too high and the final stage will become near impossible. Normally, this isn't enough on its own, so letting enemies escape and missing powerups are often employed to lower the rank further.
  • This is the AI director's take on the team's progress in Left 4 Dead. Doing too well will make less health and bomb items appear and the director is more likely to spawn a Tank - except when the game just feels like giving you all the special Infected, including the Witch and Tank, with no medkits until the end of the level when your team all has less than 20 health left from the Tank that spawn-raped them earlier, or when the Director decides to spawn three tanks in a row because you've been killing them with impunity the past few games. The Director is a fickle bastard and is wholly impossible to predict.
  • In the (originally) MMO golf game Pangya, Approach Mode is a competition to put your ball as close to the hole as possible - without going in. If your cup winds up in the hole, you come in last.
  • In Sid Meier's Pirates! 2004 remake, there are three different types of "Governors' Daughters" to romance, being the Beautiful, Attractive, and Plain daughters. While you get the best overall reward for marrying a Beautiful daughter, some of the best early-game rewards (namely the Special Items) can be gotten through romancing the Plain and Attractive ones, but not the Beautiful ones. In addition, the rewards you get are partially dependent on how well you dance with said daughter. If you dance well with an Attractive Daughter, she will give you a quest to infiltrate an enemy colony and arrest some criminal, a reward worth less than the price of an item and generally takes considerable time and effort. However, if you only dance partially-well with her, she will give you an item instead.
  • Certain varieties of Speed Run eschew perfection for speed. In fact, many Speed Run sites distinguish between a Speed Run (getting to the end in the fastest time possible) and a 100% Completion run (getting to the end in the fastest time possible with everything you can get in the game).
    • Some archives even note which runs involve taking damage or dying to save time (usually to capitalize on flinching, Mercy Invincibility, or respawning in a location closer to the next objective).
    • Case in point in a speed run for Super Mario Bros : reaching the flag that marks the end of level, the player "tripped" and lost a second before catching the flag. Had they jump immediatly, the timer would have ended with a "6", which in this game triggers a firework sequence. That animation would have made them lose a couple seconds more.
  • Several games have bonuses for beating the game on "easy" mode, a better bonus for beating the game on "medium", but they don't give you the easy bonus if you beat it on medium so you have to beat it on both even though you've already proven you can.
    • Super Smash Bros Brawl, for example.
    • Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune's 10-Outrun mode. Even if you clear Level 10 of a course before the levels before, you still have to clear the 9 remaining levels.
    • Bayonetta has a special item which allows for automatic combos and blocks to be performed; it's permanently equipped on Easy and Very Easy and can be unlocked for all other difficulties by completing said modes. This is never mentioned in the game. Given the Harder Than Hard difficulty of Hard and Infinite Climax, this is a bit of a Guide Dang It.
    • The earlier Guitar Hero instalments. You need to beat Career Mode on/5-Star every song on each difficulty separately to unlock all the guitars. Guitar Hero III made the achievements for beating Career Mode stackable (hard gets you easy and medium) but not the ones for 5-Starring everything. World Tour and later games abandoned this approach.
    • The World Ends With You puts a positive twist on this. Each noise provides a (potentially) different drop for each of four difficulty levels. As drop rates aren't always 100%, however, you may miss out on the one for your difficulty level, but should you do so, you'll then get a chance at the next lowest drop, and (should you miss out on that one too) the next lowest drop, until either you get a drop, or miss out on the lowest drop. Despite this, it's still possible to lock out lower drops at higher difficulty levels by raising your drop rate too high, especially since it's possible to miss unlocking Easy.
  • In DJMAX Portable and DJMAX Portable 2, there are discs you can obtain by getting certain percentages. There's the discs that require you to get at least a certain percentage on a song, but there's also ones that require you to get very low percentages, as well as ones that require you to have exactly a multiple of 10 as your percentage. There's also the Lucky and Evil discs, obtained by getting 77.7% and 66.6%, respectively.
    • Also, combo unlocks, the process of which consists of the following: achieve a particular combo...and then break it before you reach the next combo unlock. If you do reach the next unlock, that unlock will be opened, but not any of the ones before it.
    • DJMAX Trilogy has the "Self Injury" mission, in which the goal is to have an accuracy between 60% and 70%. Delves a little into Fake Difficulty because hold notes, when held down, yield MAX 100% for every eighth note that it's held down for.
    • DJMAX Technika's Technical Mode. Each set has two boss songs (or in the case of two sets, three), and which one you get depends on your MAX-to-notecount ratio for the first 3 stages. So you should always try to nail lots of MAXes, right? WRONG. Some of the boss songs you get for getting high MAX percentages actually have a lower max combo than their low-accuracy counterparts, meaning you get more points on the 4th stage if you get the boss song that requires lower accuracy. So what does this lead to? Having to play "Cool Attack" and get some Cools to avoid raising the MAX percentage too high and getting the lower-scoring 4th stage.
      • The Specialist Set, however, has an intentional example of this. Get less than 70% MAX judgments and you get the set's third possible boss song, Fermion.
  • In Fallout Tactics Brotherhood of Steel, the Good conclusion requires only destroying some, not all, of the brains. Otherwise, the character's Karma Meter is dinged as not perfect, leading to the second tier ending. It's annoying, but it's a rare example where a bug is a Good Bad Bug works as Fridge Brilliance.
  • In Sonic and The Secret Rings, you get various rewards for getting certain amounts of bronze, silver, and gold medals. Yes, you have to get bronze and silver even if you already got gold; and no, they won't tell you what you're missing if you already got a higher rank.
  • In Tomba you had to do this if you wanted all three medals in the racing minigame.
  • The Superior Software game Ravenskull scored you on a percentage system, each task completed adding to your percentage, and the game could only be won if your final percentage was high enough. The catch? The score counter only has room for two digits, so 100%, which is possible, counts as zero.
  • In Madden NFL's Franchise Mode, if your team wins 3 Super Bowls in a row, your head coach will retire. He may retire for other reasons if you don't, but an unprecedented Super Bowl three-peat will ensure this.
  • In the Trauma Center series, getting the XS rank (or S in Under the Knife) is always a challenge, but some missions require you to let the GUILT/Stigma run rampant on the patient, because simply curing the patient as soon as humanly possible (like a real doctor should) will not produce enough points to qualify for the S and XS rankings. Thus, you have to let the pathogen create lacerations and tumors for you to fix up and score points off of.
    • X-3 in Second Opinion. Go too fast, and you lack the chain bonus needed to get an XS; you need to let some thorns regenerate so you can achieve a high enough chain.
  • Certain stages in Raiden Fighters Jet can only be reached through requirements such as dying in a particular stage, not triggering the gold medals, or using continues. So if you're trying to achieve the Level 35 or Level 50 endings without continuing...
  • One of the pieces of heart in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask can only be obtained by wearing a mask that forces you to stay awake, listen to the old lady read a story that lasts for over fourteen in-game hours, and then fail to answer her follow-up question correctly.
    • On a related note, there is an archery game in Clock Town. For beating the record score, you get a Piece of Heart, and for getting a perfect score, you get a Quiver upgrade (IIRC on both parts. May be swapped.). The result of this is, if you get a perfect score your first time, which is quite difficult, you will only get the Piece of Heart. Which means you need to get a perfect score a second time to get the Quiver upgrade, without any chance of a consolation prize of 50 Rupees for just beating your best score. It's much easier to just beat the record score by one the first time before actually trying for a perfect score. However, the better example of the trope is what happens on subsequent sets of three days. The record score is reset, so you can beat it again for 50 Rupees, or get a perfect for 100. However, getting one perfect score makes it impossible to get ANY prize from anything less than a perfect score. So to get the easiest profit out of this, the best tactic for making money out of this is to beat your best score by one repeatedly until that becomes genuinely difficult, or you get a perfect score, then reset the clock, rather than trying for the big prize every time.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the Thunder Dragon will offer you the Hylian Shield if you can beat 8 of the bosses you have already fought. This is the only shield in the game that doesn't take any damage whatsoever, so it's a lot more desireable than the 2,000 Rupees that he gives you for beating all 9 that you can challenge. But you have to beat exactly 8 bosses. If you go all the way through and beat 9, you have to start over and quit right before the last boss to get the shield.
    • On top of that, the reward for beating 4 bosses and quitting there is a Heart Piece. Meaning you'll have to do this at least twice if you want One Hundred Percent Completion.
    • Getting over 28 points in the "Clean Cut" minigame will earn you rare treasures like Goddess Plumes and Golden Skulls. However, getting between 20 and 23 points will get you an Evil Crystal, another rare item.
      • On the same minigame, the prize for 15-19 points is 30 Rupees. Since the game costs 10 Rupees, getting this relatively low score every few times will ensure that you'll never run out of Rupees while playing it.
    • Yet another example: If you let yourself be reduced to critical health multiple times, and call Fi when she nags you about it, you'll gain the ability to Dowse for hearts. Naturally you'll want to do this if you don't like empty spaces on your dowsing menu.
  • In the Atari ST version of Lemmings 2: The Tribes, it's possible to save too many lemmings and make the game Unwinnable. Saving the extra lemming may have been a glitch - at best, it requires extreme precision across multiple screen-widths.
  • The Battlefield 3 MVP 2 and MVP 3 dog tags for multiplayer are unlocked by receiving enough MVP 2 and MVP 3 ribbons—which means that the player has to come in 2nd or 3rd each time, as scoring MVP (first place) only counts towards the MVP dog tag.
  • The Shoot'Em Up In the Hunt played this straight - If you managed to reach the final form of the Final Boss in one credit, you would get the secret ending. It's not a happy one. Beating the game on more than one credit gave you the happy ending.
  • Fahrenheit (2005 video game) has this come up a few times. Since you play as both the killer Lucas and the detectives hunting for him, sometimes it's better to do enough so Lucas doesn't panic but not so much as to make the work hard on the detectives. For example, at the very start of the game, right after Lucas kills, you're expected to do all the things you'd expect a killer to do (hide the body and the weapon, wash off the blood, act casual to avoid suspicion, and escape before the police catch on). When playing as the detectives, you have to investigate the scene of the crime, but you can't move on with the game until you find the weapon. If you made Lucas hide the weapon, the camera cuts away while Lucas hides it, so even the player doesn't know where Lucas hid it, meaning the player (as the detectives) has to hunt for it. If you "forgot" to hide the weapon, the detectives would find it on the ground at the crime scene, meaning you can move on that much easier.
  • The GBA version of Super Mario Bros. 3 has a new ending theme song if you've beaten every stage. If you want to hear the original ending theme, you'll have to miss at least one.
  • Super Mario RPG has a mini game where you jump on Goombas to win flower points. Score at least 20 points and you'll win a flower tab. However, the next time you play, you MUST score at least two extra points higher than your previous attempt in order to win again. If you scored more then twenty, this is still the case, and you'll have to score two more points the next time you play, so the best strategy is to stop and stand still once you've reached 20 points, beating your score little by little each time to continue earning victories.
  • Sports Jam gives trophies in Original Mode for getting the the #1 high score, the #2 high score, and anywhere from the #3 to #10 high score. The tricky part was that it has to be in that place on the high score chart at the time. So the best way to get #2 is play one really good game, then get a score higher than the default #1, 40,000 (pretty easy) but not quite as great as your best score. Not too hard if you plan for it, but it can get frustrating if you don't.
  • The Flash game Infectonator World Edition has an achievement for all upgrades, but completing a level perfectly locks it from grinding. Also, you can upgrade far in excess of what you need to beat the game.
  • In the early Guitar Hero games, you couldn't tell what your star rank would be until the end of the song. Fansite ScoreHero compiled a list of cutoffs for the different grades by repeatedly playing through and recording what scores earned how many stars. This got rather difficult when suddenly single-point precision is required.
    • No-fail cheats in later games made it significantly easier. Trying to miss enough to land exactly one point short of the four star cutoff while still passing the song is hideously counterintutive; far easier is to set a target score from the start, whammy point the last digits early on, play normally (well, skipping holds) until you hit the score and then ignore everything else.
    • And then there was Barfo.
  • A challenge in Time Splitters requires you as the Veiled SWAT to keep bank robbers from taking more than four bags of loot to their base in order to play as Veiled SWAT in Arcade Mode. Finish the challenge without the robbers getting away with a single bag though, and a glitch will keep him forever locked, even if you retry and letting the other team score a bag or two. Just hope you didn't already save, and reset.
  • In The Sims, once a Sim reaches the top level 10 job of his or her career, there is a random chance after every workday that they will be demoted to a mid-level job in another field. For example, a military general will become a SWAT team leader, or a movie star will become a Congressman. While this can add variety to the gameplay and keep things fresh, it's extremely annoying if you just want to rake in the dough, not to mention that the new career path will probably require your Sim to build more skills and make new friends. To avoid this, many players simply have their Sims stay at the level 9 job, never meeting the requirements for the last promotion.
  • Homeworld's Dynamic Difficulty results in an interesting situation where sometimes it was best to scrap your entire fleet (especially after the one level that lets you go to town stealing ion frigates) so that the next level was tuned to a smaller, more balanced fleet.
  • Tamagotchi had several different critters to raise your egg into. Getting a specific one required knowing exactly how often to ignore or how long to delay attending to its beeping.
  • The infamous final Canary Mary race from Banjo-Tooie. Mary has such a bad case of Rubber Band AI that if you pull ahead too early, she will speed up so much that the race literally becomes Unwinnable. The fact that there is nothing in-game to clue you in on this combined with the fact that the race is controlled (and the first three races relatively easily won) with Button Mashing... well, it's no wonder Rare makes sadistic jokes about it in the sequel.
  • In the first Metal Gear Solid, getting the bad ending unlocks the stealth camouflage.
  • In EA's Madden NFL 2004, a single player could not accumulate more than 1023 rushing yards in a single game; any more would wrap around to -1024 due to an overflow error. With a good team, a good playbook, and a good working knowledge of AI behavior, the player might need to cut a run short and make a substitution to avoid wrecking his star running back's statistics.
    • In sister series NCAA Football, there are often achievements for winning all of the various bowl game trophies. However, many of the bowl games are consolations for the schools who finished #2, #3, or lower in their conferences.
  • Players can use this to their advantage in Rez. Depending on your performance in a level, you face a different version of the end boss. Shoot down less than 90% of the enemies, and get the Mega version. More than 90% but less than 98%, get the Giga version, which is somewhat tougher. More than 98% and you face the Tera version, which is even harder. Now, before playing the final stage, you can replay the previous stages. To get the most out of this, you want to kill enough enemies to get as many Progress Nodes and Overdrives as you can find, but not so much that the end boss will be tough enough to take them all away from you.
  • In Punch-Out!!, you have the Challenge with Glass Joe that requires to knock him down three times, and let him win by decision, and the Challenge with TD Mr. Sandman that requires you to almost get knocked out, and then return to win. Also, there's the protective headgear unlocked for losing 100 times in Career Mode. It becomes Lost Forever if you clear all of Career Mode without getting it, since Career Mode goes away upon completion. That's the only mode you can use it in anyway, though, so it's not a big loss.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has the "Strong Closer" Achievement/Trophy. To get it, you have to take the lead within the last ten seconds of a multiplayer match and keep it by the end of the match. Naturally, the best way to get it would be to stay close enough to the leader that you can easily overtake, but not actually take the lead until the time is right.
    • This achievement can easily be "boosted" by cooperating with someone in a private match, but getting it legit, in a dramatic come-from-behind victory can lead to whoops and cackles of joy.
  • Red Alert 2 had a smaller example: every campaign level has a "par time" value. Finishing the map faster or slower than this changes the debriefing between "good work, people" and "good work but we lost many good men". It also determines your rank.
    • Especially aggravating if you see this, and go for a No Casualties Run the next mission, only to be again told many good men were lost...
  • Hidden Object Games that have Achievements (or something similar) commonly have one for speedy solving of a hidden object scene. The Collector's Edition of Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles has two achievements for slow solving—one for solving a puzzle scene in over 10 minutes, and one for solving a hidden object scene in over 10 minutes. So if you want to get the award for collecting all the achievements, you need to take a break during two scenes and let the game timer run.
  • Similarly, the newest You Don't Know Jack rewards players for various counter-intuitive actions. There's achievements/trophies for losing a million dollars on the Jack Attack and for losing to a player ranked lower than you online, and in-game, there's "Wrong Answers of the Game", which pay out double winnings for being selected.
  • On several occasions, Heavy Rain actually rewards the player for failing a Quick Time Event with additional scenes and Character Development that you wouldn't notice otherwise. E.g. the first time (out of two possible) that Ethan is taken into custody, Norman breaks him out, establishing himself as the only cop in the game who will protect an innocent at all costs.
  • The Suffering. In order to get the neutral ending, one has to save some innocents, do some good. But not in all situations. It's okay to shoot the guy who keeps firebombing you by accident.
  • Scarface the World Is Yours has this in a cut-scene. First, you are confronted with robbers holding up a bank. You blast them all. Cue cut-scene. Somehow, six escape. Following them is now a must.
  • In Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, if you want to fight Dan, for the first six rounds you have to finish every match with a time of 61 seconds or more, a maximum chain of 3 or less, a maximum power gem size of 19 or less, and never end with a super finish. You'll fight Dan after the 6th round if you do.
  • This is the backstory of Saki's title character. She would get punished if she did too well, and made fun of if she lost, so she would get perfectly no score, which is actually harder to get than a clear win or loss.
  • Mitsumete Knight has a few Titles that require this to get them so you can complete your Titles' list, most notably the Knight Titles and the "Blade of Darkness Title, which require a combination of a specific Level and number of Medals to get them.
  • In the Pokémon games, capturing a wild Mon is likelier if it's been weakened by attacks from your creatures — but if your attacks knock its HP to zero and it faints, you can't catch it at all.
  • A board game example: In oware (one of the more popular and strategic mancala games) it's possible to chain-up captures to take more seeds and get closer to the 25 seeds needed to win. But a move that would capture all the seeds there — a grand slam — is severely restricted. Depending on the variation being played, either the move is not legal, or the move happens but the capture doesn't, or the capture happens but your opponent then gets to take all the seeds on your side.
  • In Harvest Moon: Magical Melody, the only way you can enter a certain horse race and win an item that ups your stamina capacity is to keep your horse's heart level at a certain place. That means that if you let your horse get too happy, you have to either abuse it until it is less happy, or you can't enter the race.
  • MSN Games' badge system sometimes forces you to do this. Each of the games has a score called High Score Level 10 (previously known as Mastery Level 10). This score must be earned during a single game to earn the badge. However, some games end too early to earn the target score if you were playing just to beat the game, so you must find creative ways to stall the game and milk as many points out of it as possible.
    • In most Match-3 games, this is done by not finishing the level goal, but just making more and more matches, only finishing levels when the time is about to run out.
    • In Zuma, the only way to rack in points is to keep adding balls to the back of the chain and clear them before they reach the end of the path - this needs at least as much skill as beating all the levels in the online version.
    • In Bridge, you must avoid winning hands, and instead let the enemy bid a high contract then play well to make them fail it, giving you points for their undertricks.
      • This is a possible tactic in Rubber Bridge at the card table, too, which is part of the reason that limited-hand variants were created.
  • On, you can earn an online currency called "Oodles," which you can redeem for drawing entries and various other stuff. One of the ways to earn oodles is to make the high score list on certain games. However, on certain games, your score won't take if it's too high. GSN says it's because there is a certain maximum score that they think can be achieved legitimately on certain games.
  • Mario Golf N64 had bronze, silver, and gold trophies for finishing tournaments in the appropriate place. Silver and Bronze need to be earned separately from Gold, but they don't do anything anyway.
  • In Billy vs. SNAKEMAN Phase Battles, you get a Lost Weapon if you use the "Shoot the Core" action while the phase is under 100 HP, but if it runs out of HP, you instead gets a more common Kaiju Drop. Damage from maxed out player averages around 500 damage and if you're not at least occasionally dealing over 100 damage a hit, you have no business fighting phases.
  • Mabinogi's Stat Grinding system for skills requires a certain number of successes and failures before you can increase a skill's rank. At higher levels, you may be so good at using the skill that it becomes harder to reach the required number of failures than successes.
  • A strategy for Mario Kart and many other kart racers, while playing with other humans, is to follow fairly closely behind the lead player but not be the lead. This way, you receive better items to attack with and get a last-second victory. This is especially true with Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, as the infamous Blue Shell is designed to target the racer in 1st place and nobody else, as long as they aren't too close behind. This is less true with games like Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing or Diddy Kong Racing, however, that have highly defensive item systems: Those 2nd or lower need to attack and defend, but the lead racer need only defend.
  • Failing an optional mission objective (but completing the mandatory one) in Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere occasionally "punishes" the player with a secret level.
  • Fossil Fighters: Champions has a sidequest wherein you have to help a character boil an egg in a hot spring for exactly ten seconds. Do it correctly, and you receive a useful item and some icons. Miss it by mere milliseconds, however, and you can net other useful items. The most notable is probably what happens if you end up pressing the button at exactly 9.9 seconds, in which case, you can obtain the super-rare Mysterious Egg fossils.
  • In .hack, the Grunty races award prizes for beating the 1st, 2nd or 3rd place times, and you can race them over and over again to win more; however, your race times become the new record times to beat. If you want to maximize the payout, then you want to just barely beat the current times (starting with 3rd place and working up) so that the new times are not too hard to beat.
  • The homebrew NES game Thwaite, a game inspired by Missile Command that parodies Animal Crossing, has a Canon Ending where the culprit is found and a non-canon ending activated by a No Damage Run. It goes through a couple scenes including bad puns on "TAS" before an ending where nobody discovers what really happened because no evidence ever landed, and then a developer thanks the player for having the dedication to make a tool-assisted run.
  • In Spider Solitaire it's possible to do so well that you clear almost all the cards off the table without ever pulling cards from the pile. Since you need to draw all the cards from the pile and clear them to win, though, and since you can't draw from the pile without having at least one card on every stack, it's possible to end up not having enough cards to populate every stack, and thus render the game Unwinnable by doing too well, too quickly.

Visual Novels

  • Many Visual Novels have BAD ENDs that require you to deliberately make a wrong decision at a specific time.
    • Saya no Uta requires the player to make a phenomenally stupid decision at the beginning of the third act in order to get the true ending.
    • Tsukihime and Fate/stay night have their characters actually judge, mock, or encourage you for making terrible decisions. Occasionally, they specifically suggest that you do something stupid or suicidal just to advance the plot. Fate/stay night's True Ending can only be seen after getting every Bad End.

Web Comics

  • This Freefall comic has Sam Starfall justifying intentionally losing a contract because a perfect record would be something he'd always have to live up to.
  • In Homestuck, this is one of Karkat's philosophical issues with living in a world where You Can't Fight Fate: if the random caprices of whatever Eldritch Abomination controls it hold that you have to fail at something, but still survive it, then doing "too well" at your given goals will literally cause your death just as easily as a decapitation.

Real Life

  • Pole vaulter Sergei Bubka, entirely dominating his sport, had a habit of only beating (often, his own) world records by just 1 cm. This was due to substantial prize money regularly offered for new world records. Every time such a prize was offered, Bubka beat his record slightly, but it was often apparent due to the amount he cleared his jumps that he was physically able to jump a lot higher than he did.
    • This is quite common in athletic sports; Usain Bolt, for example, only beats the world record in the 100m sprint by a fraction of a second, probably to ensure he can beat it again in the future, even though he can clearly do far better.
  • When bowling in a handicap league, you will get more wins if you only bowl good enough to win by a few points then if you bowl a great game. This is because people get handicap points to even out the differences in their average. If someone is bowling under their average, you can lower your handicap by bowling under your average too and still win, while if they play above their average, a close win does less damage to your average than a spectacular game. Bowling a 300 will only hurt your average, with no benefit unless it was required to win that game, and even if it was, the damage it will do to your handicap next session will almost guarantee a loss. This is a form of sandbagging, and is against the rules, but very difficult to prove. People who are good enough to pull this off really should be playing scratch, but in practice there's an area of skill where someone isn't good enough to win money in a scratch league, but can win a handicap one easily by sandbagging without getting caught.
  • This a deliberate choice by Muslim tapestry weavers, who add one flaw because only Allah may be perfect. During the tour of the United Nations, one's guide will often point to a tapestry that is several stories tall and challenge you to find it.
  • This happens to be the only way that a program can successfully pass the Turing Test. The computer must demonstrate a good understanding of language and conversation, but must not be perfect or else it becomes easy for the human to tell which is the computer (probably because of the Uncanny Valley)
  • The only way to build good credit is to buy things you can't afford at the moment, but then to pay it off with regular payments. An inability to pay your debts develops bad credit, and paying things off in full right away develops no credit.

  1. If you knocked out the entire Mob on the first question, you'd win €50,000, or €100,000 if you used the Double on the question. If you knocked out half the Mob on the first question, it'd be worth €25,000, then knocking out the other half on the second question would be worth an additional €50,000, again subject to the Double.