1UP writes: "Since its first substantial addition to the vocabulary of videogames in Super Mario Bros., the power-up has become an unquestioned element of video games. Back in 1985, there was no question as to whether that enigmatically marked block would provide you with something awesome, be it a mushroom, Fire Flower, or the elusive Starman. But over time, the once-pure idea of the power-up was tainted, and as videogames grew more complex, it didn't take long before a plethora in-game of choices led to some power-ups that were marginally helpful at best. In fact, if we look just one year after Super Mario Bros., we see some power-ups that are downright malicious. In Super Mario Bros. 2 (released only in Japan and mostly known in the U.S. as The Lost Levels), the only addition to the roster of items Mario could use was a palette-swapped mushroom that did nothing but bring him closer to death. Rumor has it that a spontaneous-combustion-causing Starman was in the works, but the idea was scrapped due to the limits of the NES' processing power -- thankfully.
Perhaps the most tragic of the power-ups are those that mean well but offer only two things: jack and squat. In a misguided effort to add just one more bullet point to the back of their boxes, many developers take a "kitchen sink" approach to game design by giving the player as many weapons, items, and doodads possible without really evaluating the items' worth. And while variety is the spice of life, these power-ups have all the kick of a bowl of white rice washed down with a Mylanta smoothie. Forget what you know about power-ups -- these are the power-downs. Avoid them like that little floating "P" icon that can only stand for 'the plague.'"