There are many games that use a tactical or elemental Rock Paper Scissors mechanic. Some of them try to make things more interesting by modifying the mechanic, such as by changing the number of options or the relationships between them.

However, some games do this by using more than one separate Rock Paper Scissors cycle. The only example of this which I have seen is a 3–2 arrangement, where a classical Rock Paper Scissors triangle is coupled with a binary opposition system.

For example, from the mobile game Empires & Puzzles:

Empires & Puzzles elements

Fire (red) beats nature (green), which beats ice (blue), which beats fire (red).

Light (yellow) beats dark (purple), which beats light (yellow).

I do not consider Pokémon to be an example of this. There are 18 types and they cannot be divided into separate Rock Paper Scissors cycles.

Does anybody know the first game to implement a system of multiple Rock Paper Scissors mechanics?

  • does it have to be elemental or just any game that uses rock paper scissor mechanic?
    – Rapitor
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 22:06
  • 1
    Is this a common setup? I've never played a 3-2 system
    – pinckerman
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 22:22
  • @Rapitor Doesn't have to be elemental. Rock paper scissors mechanic but with another 2 options added in.
    – hb20007
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 6:36
  • 1
    If you've seen several games with this system, can you give more examples?
    – Joachim
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 9:46
  • @Joachim I edited the question and made it more generalized.
    – hb20007
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 12:26

4 Answers 4


There are many recent games using multiple Rock Paper Scissors mechanics, such as:

Brave Frontier, 2013:

Fire > Earth > Thunder > Water then Dark - Light oppose each other

The Denpa Man, 2012:

Fire > Ice > Wind > Earth > Electricity > Water > Fire. Light and Dark are more complicated: Light Denpa Men resist Dark but are weak to Light. Light enemies are often weak to both. Dark enemies are often only weak to Light.

Probably (I can't find anything before) the first appearance of this mechaninc should be from Tales Series:

Fire, Ice, Wind, Earth, Lighting, and Water, in a cycle, then has Light and Dark, which were both strong against each other.

Tales of Phantasia (1995):

Introduces elements to the series. Elemental damage comes in four forms: neutral, weakness, resistance and absorption. There are degrees of resistance; the higher the resistance, the higher the chance to nullify the damage.
This system is also used in the PlayStation release of Tales of Destiny (1997)

Tales of Eternia (2000):

Revolutionizes the system by reworking the concept of resistance. Resistance now means that the target takes decreased damage from the element rather than having a chance to nullify it. This system is then used in most games of the franchise.

I can't find any proof about Phantasia, but Dark and Light were already present in Destiny. The "elemental wheel" wasn't really changed in Eternia, only how resistance is managed.
So Tales of Destiny is my guess.

Source, here.

  • I'm not sure about Final Fantasy series, Holy element was strong against Undead and Dark enemies, while Dark element wasn't developed much in older games and I don't recall fighting against Holy-based creatures. Only in FFXII Dark gained more spells and was effective against Holy,
    – pinckerman
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 14:43

Fire Emblem (1996)

It's an old series known for its triangle matchups. The first game in the series to feature this mechanic was Genealogy of the Holy War in 1996, and those same matchups were also featured in Thracia 776 in 1999:

From the GotHW wiki page:

  • Physical weapons: Swords -> axes -> lances-> swords
  • Tomes: Fire magic -> wind magic -> thunder magic -> fire magic.

Bows, light and dark magic are excluded from these triangles. Light and dark magic are both strong against fire, wind and thunder, while bows are completely unaffected.

While there are differences, the elements are strikingly similar to the ones found in games like Empires & Puzzles, since there are three elements forming a triangle plus light and dark.

The games immediately following that only had two independent triangles, either by removing light/dark or by altering the magic triangle by grouping wind/fire/thunder into a single type: anima. It wasn't until Radiant Dawn (2007) that a more complex triangle emerged again:

Here we see the weapon triangle unchanged, and the "anima" elements separated, back in their own triangle. In addition, dark beats anima elements which beat light, which beats dark.

See also Weapon Triangle on the wiki. It's the source of these images.

  • Should the header not read "Fire Emblem - Genealogy of the Holy War"? Commented Jun 30 at 19:11

Pokémon Red and Blue (1996)

I do not consider Pokémon to be an example of this. There are 18 types and they cannot be divided into separate Rock Paper Scissors cycles.

Pokémon does have multiple separate cycles. In the first generation games (Red and Blue), we have:

  • Fire > Grass > Water
  • Fighting > Ice > Flying.
  • Psychic > Poison > Bug*

These three cycles have no overlap, so I'm not sure what you mean by "cannot be divided into separate Rock Paper Scissors cycles" when I've just done exactly that. I suppose you might have meant "every type is part of exactly one cycle, and there are no other interactions between types" - but you really ought to spell that out explicitly since Fire Emblem appears to break that rule.

* Note that Poison is no longer super-effective against Bug in the modern games.


Realms of Kaos (1996)

The answer above has mentioned a game from 1995, but it's unclear to me from the answer if it's exactly what you're describing.

In 1996 there was a relatively obscure MuD called Realms of Kaos that had a divinity system, whereby every player at character creation chose a divinity (fire, ice, night, earth, storm) and every monster in the game had a divinity too. You'd deal more damage to people/monsters that your divinity countered and you'd hit them more easily, and likewise the reverse was true for making it harder.

Certain divinities were more difficult to play, because some had few monsters that you had divinity against which made leveling up difficult. Certain divinities were therefore popular with players, and thus you'd be able to kill them more easily if you took the time to level a character that had divinity against them.

  • 2
    I'm missing the part where this has a multiple Rock Paper Scissors mechanics, you are just saying that some elements were more popular than others. The Realms of Kaos wikia itself states: "Followers of each divinity have advantages against followers of one other divinity and weaknesses against followers of another in a circular "rock-paper-scissors" arrangement." So that's not what OP was asking.
    – pinckerman
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 13:11

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