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->''"Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone." ''
-->-- '''[[TropeNamers King Pyrrhus of Epirus]]''' in the [[OlderThanFeudalism Battle of Asculum]], his ''second'' [[TropeNamers Pyrrhic Victory]] against the Romans.

Few victories come without cost, but the cost of a Pyrrhic Victory is ruinous to the victor. A Pyrrhic Victory will often involve a HeroicSacrifice or people asking WasItReallyWorthIt If it happens at the end of a work, it will inevitably lead to a BittersweetEnding or even a DownerEnding (and likely InferredHolocaust). Often the implication of a LonelyAtTheTop situation, where someone gets everything he wanted, but lost everything and everyone that helped him get there. A clever enemy can use a DefensiveFeintTrap [[FailureGambit to trick an opponent into "winning" such a victory]].

These are common in DarkerAndEdgier series and is one of the defining characteristics of a CrapsackWorld. Compare to MeaninglessVillainVictory. Contrast with PyrrhicVillainy and ShootTheShaggyDog. If the bad outcome of a victory is due to post-victory arrangements rather than victory itself, you may look for WonTheWarLostThePeace. When dealing with {{Eldritch Abomination}}s, this overlaps with BrokeYourArmPunchingOutCthulhu. Contrast XanatosGambit, where "losing" might benefit the planner more than outright victory. Contrast GodzillaThreshold; ''any'' victory will do, and no price is too great to achieve said victory, and TheUnfettered who are the most likely to carry it out.

'''Here there be spoilers,''' since this is often an {{Ending Trope|s}}.

Named for [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrrhus_of_Epirus King Pyrrhus of Epirus]] whose two major victories during his campaign against Rome cost him so many of his best soldiers that he was eventually forced to retreat.

This trope is based on real life events. However, due to massive [[Administrivia/EditWar edit warring]] in the real life section, [[Administrivia/NoRealLifeExamplesPlease the section is now closed.]] Fortunately [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrrhic_victory there's a page with details of these battles]] on [[Wiki/{{Wikipedia}} The Other Wiki]].

[[noreallife]]
----
!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Manga/{{Freezing}}''. In every battle with the MonsterOfTheWeek, The Nova ends in massive death tolls, which increase with every battle as the Novas evolve and improve at a rate mankind just can't keep up with. The tiny part of the population able to fight The Nova is dwindling ever quicker and getting harder and harder to replace, made worse because the entire population able to fight Novas is made up of ChildSoldiers who, on top of risking life and limb, die at a young age anyway because of the use of their powers.
* At the end of ''Manga/{{Hellsing}}'', [[BigBad The Major]] and every last one of his Millennium [[{{Ghostapo}} vampire soldiers]] have been slain, but he dies content. The cost of his defeat was the destruction of London, with almost all of its population dead overnight, Alucard apparently destroyed, the Hellsing and Iscariot Organizations having lost most of its key members, Pip and most of the Wild Geese dead, Walter having died a traitor (but managing to take the Doktor and his twisted creations with him), and [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking Integra now missing an eye]].
* ''Anime/MazingerZ'': After a long and hard battle, Kouji defeated Dr. Hell with Mazinger Z. However, the Mycene immediately attacks without giving any time to rest and he is unable to do anything to stop them. Mazinger Z, Venus A, Boss Borot and the Photon Research Institute are easily destroyed (and several world cities, including Tokyo, in the movie). Kouji is saved by Tetsuya and his Great Mazinger, who claims that Mazinger Z isn't needed anymore.
** And in ''Anime/GreatMazinger'', the heroes finally defeat the Mykene army... but it was due to the HeroicSacrifice of Prof. Kabuto, Kouji and Shiro's biological father and Tetsuya and Jun's adoptive father. Despite the victory, nobody felt victorious; in fact Tetsuya [[ItsAllMyFault blamed himself for his father's death]], and rightly so. In one of the adaptations, [[spoiler:Tetsuya]] himself bites the dust.
* Several times throughout ''Manga/DragonBall''. Most notably, the end of the Saiyan Arc; while the Saiyans are repelled, with Nappa being killed and Vegeta retreating in bad shape, more than half of the Z Fighters are killed (Yamcha, Tenshinhan, Chiaozu, and Piccolo) in the battle, and even the survivors are in pretty rough shape. Even worse, the Dragon Balls have ceased to exist due to Piccolo's death (and because of his connection to Kami, Kami is dead too), meaning that no one can be brought back to life again. When the discovery of the existence of Dragon Balls on Namek is made, the race is on to find and gather them before the new bad guys do.
** ''Anime/DragonBallSuper'' has perhaps the most grim ending yet in the Future Trunks arc; Just when it seems like BigBad Zamasu has been defeated once and for all, he turns into some sort of spirit that begins to consume ''the universe itself'', causing Goku to press the button he'd been given earlier to summon the King of All. Once he arrives, he takes one look at the situation and decides "This is just hideous. I guess I'll just [[ApocalypseHow/ClassX4 destroy this world]]". Goku and the others narrowly manage to leave the future timeline before it all disintegrates, and back in the present, Whis suggests that Trunks return to an earlier point in his timeline before Zamasu showed up. He'll go with him to warn Beerus about what Zamasu is about to do so the tragedy won't happen again, while Trunks and Mai get to live out their lives in peace, though since they'll be returning to an earlier point in their own lives, there will be two of them running around. The future world they fought so hard to protect from Zamasu and Goku Black? Gone. Their friends from that world? Dead. In short, this arc makes the ending to the Cell-arc look like pure sunshine and rainbows by comparison.
* ''Manga/SaintSeiyaTheLostCanvas''. By the series final, you can count the number of survivors on two hands.
* In ''LightNovel/{{Slayers}}'', the Koma War (translated variously as "Dark Lord's Resurrection War", "War of Demonic Invasion", "War of the Monsters' Fall") a thousand years ago ended badly for everyone. Ruby-Eye Shabranigdu destroyed Aqualord Ragradia... but was permanently frozen in the GrimUpNorth, all his power sealed. Half the Golden Dragons in the world were slaughtered... but Mazoku also suffered the deaths of two Priests and two Generals (who are irreplaceable), as well as [[EnemyCivilWar the desertion of Chaos Dragon Gaav and all serving him]]. Even aside from Gaav's outright betrayal, without Shabranigdu organizing them, the Five Retainers couldn't get along and started [[WeAREStrugglingTogether bickering amongst each other over the best way to end the world]]. Humans suffered devastating losses, including losing the ability to perform Holy Magic and being confined to a single continent by the Mazoku God-Sealing Field, but on the other hand started developing increased levels of Black and Shamanic Magic. In short, nobody won. Thus, in the novels, when Dynast Grausherra decides to bring about the resurrection of Ruby-Eye through a second Koma War, even his fellow Mazoku are opposed to the idea.
* The ending of ''Manga/DeathNote'' certainly feels like one of these. [[spoiler:Soichiro Yagami]], one of the only truly good characters in the series (according to [[WordOfGod the artist himself]],) is dead, [[spoiler: L is dead]], [[spoiler:Mello is dead]] (although that was [[MemeticMutation just as planned]]), poor Matsuda's probably going to need some serious therapy, [[spoiler:there is no afterlife (at least in the manga)]], God knows how many [=NPCs=] are dead, and [[spoiler:a year later, the world's practically returned to normal. Kira barely changed anything]]. Ouch.
** The manga's ending is less Pyrrhic for [[spoiler: Light]] though, as there is still [[spoiler: a cult of followers worshiping him, even though everything else returned to normal]].
** The movie version is only ''marginally'' better. [[spoiler: L gains 23 days, but he still dies. Kira is stopped sooner, but the world still goes back to normal. There's still no afterlife (at least for Death Note users). This time, he survives, but ''Soichiro's'' the one that needs therapy now.]]
* ''Manga/YuYuHakusho''
** The ending of the Chapter Black arc has Yusuke defeat Sensui, except Sensui was already dying and the demon gate was opened just so he could die honorably. In addition, said demons turned out to mostly be nobler than [[HumansAreTheRealMonsters the humans Yusuke was to protect]], and The Spirit World did indeed turn out to be corrupt.
** Then in the Makai tournament, Yusuke ends up one-on-one with Yomi, one of the three former Demon Kings. It was an intense battle from beginning to end. In the end, Yomi won the battle, but doing so took so much out of him that he had nothing left for his next opponent. So even in losing, Yusuke managed to keep Yomi from fulfilling his ambition to rule Makai and wage war on the other realms.
* In ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'', Uryu's fight with [[MadScientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi]] ended with Uryu defeating Kurotsuchi at the cost of having all of his powers [[spoiler: semi-]]permanently sealed away.
** When Ichigo wins a fight by [[spoiler: giving into his SuperpoweredEvilSide]]. Yes, he won, but in doing so [[spoiler:he traumatized one friend, stabbed and tried to kill another, and brutally mauled his opponent to death]].
** [[spoiler: Also, his final victory against Aizen. Aizen can only be sealed away and imprisoned meaning there's always a chance he could return. Meanwhile, Ichigo sacrificed his powers and his ability to be a substitute Shinigami. Thinking he has no right to complain about this, he tries to go on with a normal human life for 17 months, his grades slipping and not planning for his future because he's unable to face up to reality that having the power to protect is an integral part of who he is, without which he's reduced to simply existing instead of actually living. It takes another [[ArcVillain substitute shinigami]] shaking up his life to make him face and accept the truth.]]
** [[spoiler: Sajin Komamura sacrificed his heart in order to become stronger and, for a while, making him incapable of death. He then proceeds to curb stomp Bambietta. However, he ends completely turning into a wolf/dog thing and might be dead.]]
* Defeating the D-Reaper in ''Anime/DigimonTamers'' was this. Basically, the only way to stop it was to use a weapon that [[spoiler:damaged their own Digimon to the point they had to go back to the Digital World or die]], and by the time it was ready the D-Reaper had already destroyed a good portion of both the Digital and real worlds. To rub salt in the wound, [[spoiler:the weapon couldn't even kill the D-Reaper -- all it did was let the Tamers [[SealedEvilInACan seal it away]] and pray to the Sovereigns that it never broke out]].
* The [[GeckoEnding anime ending]] of ''Manga/ChronoCrusade'' qualifies. Chrono and Rosette manage to save Joshua and defeat Aion, but Joshua is badly brain damaged and can't remember them, Chrono and Rosette are badly injured during the final battle and die together six months later, Satella kills her sister and herself in order to stop Fiore from taking Joshua back to Aion, Remington is left broken and filled with regret, Aion's plans cause the Great Depression, and in the 1980s Remington witnesses a man that appears to be Aion take out a gun and shoot the Pope. It's also implied that Aion is revived by [[HumansAreBastards humanity's sins]] and will live on [[AsLongAsThereIsEvil as long as sin exists in the world]], meaning that Chrono and Rosette's sacrifices only seem to stop Aion temporarily.
* In ''Manga/{{Monster}}'', Tenma got his [[SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism moral victory]]… at a great cost.
* Whether you believe Tabris the 17th Angel allowed Shinji to kill him because he truly respected/cared for Shinji, or because [[AlternativeCharacterInterpretation he wanted to make Shinji suffer as he died]], it's indisputable that the destruction of the last Angel in ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' ruined the last of Shinji's self-confidence and mental stability.[[spoiler: It gets worse in the Movie, when we realize the Angels are actually NOT the real threat as his Magnificent Bastard of a father AND SEELE an Ancient Conspiracy begin their plans for World Instrumentality. ]]
** Taken UpToEleven in ''Anime/RebuildOfEvangelion''. In the second movie, Shinji attempts to [[spoiler:rescue Rei's soul from Zeruel's core after the former has been consumed by the angel]]. He fulfills this goal to an extent, but at the cost of [[spoiler:triggering the Third Impact and kickstarting the end of the world]]. In the end, it is revealed in the third movie that [[spoiler:he hadn't even been able to save the Rei he wanted to save after all]].
* After winning the previous Gundam Fight in ''[[Anime/MobileFighterGGundam G Gundam]]'', [[spoiler: Master Asia]] looks back and is horrified by the carnage and the damage he and the other participants have caused. He becomes bitter at humanity's willingness to go through such lengths [[spoiler: and [[WellIntentionedExtremist has thus chosen to be extreme in his own way]]]].
* At the end of ''Manga/OnePiece'''s Paramount War arc, the Marines succeed in their stated goal of killing [[spoiler: Ace and Whitebeard]], ostensibly proving the strength of their justice. Yet they lose so, so much more. To whit;
** '''Before''' the War began, Straw Hat Luffy, trying to free Ace, sneaks into Impel Down, and ignites an unprecedented prison riot. Blackbeard also attacks the prison to do some recruiting, and the ultimate result is a mass jailbreak of at least 240 prisoners escaping, some Warlord-level, and some so dangerous that the Government had to erase their existence.
** '''During''' the War, the Whitebeard Pirates and allies prove to be a powerful force, and decimate half of the Marines' assembled forces. Whitebeard himself demolishes the Marine HQ, and splits the island in two. What's more, the arrival of the Red-Hair Pirates allows the surviving pirates to escape. Even worse, Blackbeard somehow ''steals'' the power of the Tremor-Tremor Fruit, putting the most destructive Devil Fruit in the hands of a total madman who now has ''two'' Devil Fruit powers despite this supposedly being a biological impossibility.
** '''After''' the War ends, [[spoiler: Whitebeard]]'s FamousLastWords confirm the existence of the One Piece, starting a second Great Age of Pirates, with the Marines being unable to respond properly because of their forces being decimated. Meanwhile, the power vacuum from his death has turned the New World into a bloodbath. Worse still, Fleet Admiral Sengoku and Vice-Admiral Garp choose to leave the Marines because of the Government's decisions, and following the promotion of [[spoiler: Akainu / Sakazuki]] to Fleet Admiral, so does [[spoiler: Aokiji / Kuzan]]. And Blackbeard is able to [[spoiler:take Whitebeard's place, seizing much of his former territory]].
* ''Manga/DGrayMan'': At the end of the Noah's Ark Arc, after battling all these Noah, Allen Walker restores the Ark by playing a special song in a secret room within the Ark that the Noah don't know. Of course, Everyone who came along for the journey, got left behind, and supposedly died come back, but when they get back, poor Allen is charged for knowing how to control the Ark, since only certain Noah know how, and for being the container for the 14th. Not only does he have to control this monster inside his head, he has to be subjected to some not so good treatment from Leverrier. Now is that the way to treat your savior?
** The Attack of the Black Order arc results in an even more pyrrhic victory. Bonus points for happening just after the above pyrrhic victory. They do succeed in repelling the invader (especially the level 4) and stopping Lulu Bell from retrieving the akuma egg but the akumas end up destroying a good part of the facility leading to a relocation, kill many members in both the science section and the security section and the worst is Marie commenting that [[spoiler: with this attack the earl probably wanted to make them understand that he could kill them whenever he wants. This is supported by the last words of the level 4 they had so much trouble to get rid of "Don't act cocky for beating a weakling like me".]]
* Twenty years before the main story in ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'', Ala Rubra stopped the war in the Magical World and saved the world. Unfortunately, this was only achievable through [[spoiler:the sealing of Asuna, which caused the floating capital to collapse and destroyed the cultural center of the world. The dynasty of the founders and kings of Ostia was also assumed to be wiped out when Arika was blamed for the disaster]].
* The end of ''Anime/CodeGeass'' goes something like this -- [[spoiler:Lelouch is dead, Suzaku had to fake his death (and both of their reputations are in ruins), the entire populations of both Tokyo and the Britannian capital are dead and it's likely that Nunnally and several others are likely to need some kind of therapy (which they apparently got by the epilogue). The world's at peace, but it's come at a heavy price]].
* In ''Manga/GreatTeacherOnizuka'' a Pyrrhic Victory is achieved by an antagonist in a beauty pageant. By cheating the voting system, she manages to beat Tomoe in the pageant, but as she receives her reward, everyone in the audience boos her and claims to want Tomoe to be the winner.
* ''[[Anime/TengenToppaGurrenLagann Gurren Lagann]]'': [[spoiler: The Anti-Spirals are defeated, but more than half of the Gurren Brigade are dead, including Kittan, and Nia dies soon after returning to earth, because her life force was tied to the Anti-Spiral. On her ''wedding day'' of all days]].
* ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'': [[spoiler:In any timeline (excepting the penultimate one) where Walpurgisnacht is defeated, all the local magical girls are left either dead or having expended so much magical power that they'll soon be powerful witches themselves]].
** Even worse are [[spoiler: the timelines where Madoka becomes, according to Kyubey, what could be the most powerful witch in existence.]]
** [[EquivalentExchange This happens kind of a lot]]. Homura defeats Charlotte, but not before [[spoiler:Mami dies]]. Sayaka prevents a witch from killing Madoka, Hitomi, and several adults [[spoiler:by becoming a magical girl. This leads to her becoming a witch, and her destruction in a HeroicSacrifice by Kyoko (yet another "victory").]]. In the ending, [[spoiler:Madoka erases all witches from existence; but Sayaka and all the historical magical girls still die, and new witch-like monsters appear. Madoka herself disappears, and most people forget that she ever existed]]. Madoka seems pretty content with this outcome, though.
* The resolution of [[spoiler: the Yurin/Flit/Emily LoveTriangle]] in ''[[Anime/MobileSuitGundamAGE Gundam AGE]]''. Sure, [[spoiler: Emily got to both marry Flit and be the mother of his children Asemu and Unoa]], but [[spoiler: this is because Yurin was ''horribly'' killed off, thus Emily's "second-best" for him. And she's very aware of it.]] And we're not counting how [[spoiler: Flit himself was broken beyond belief by the death of Yurin... enough to become the DarkMessiah AntiHero]].
** By the end [[spoiler: Nearly EVERYONE on both sides except the 3 main Gundam leads are dead. Although Flit was able to resist going genocidal on the Vegans in the end he'd more or less wasted his whole life on a cause he abandoned in the end, and he died shortly after the war ended. Asemu became a wanted criminal and missed out on his sons entire childhood, and he wasn't able to help Zeheart in the end. Kio got his peace he wanted, but all the Vegans he personally knew and wanted to save all died. In spite of this very bleak outlook the series acts like it was a super happy ending, one reason the ending was not well received by fans]].
* The conclusion of the First Space War in ''Anime/SuperDimensionFortressMacross''. Yeah, humanity survived... [[spoiler:by the skin of its teeth, with less than a million humans out of the six billion that once inhabited Earth, and the planet is devastated and barely hanging on as an ecosystem.]] As for the Zentraedi fleet, [[spoiler:their numbers have been severally reduced, and many of them, in being absorbed into Earth culture and becoming isolated from the other Zentraedi in the galaxy, have lost their purpose in life, becoming little more than wandering bandits picking fights for no reason]]. Fortunately, it gets better, [[spoiler:with humanity and its allies becoming a thriving interstellar civilization by the time of the later ''Anime/{{Macross}}'' series]].
* Occurs in ''VisualNovel/SteinsGate'' when Rintaro [[spoiler:finally returns from the alpha world line, where [[LikeBrotherAndSister Mayuri]] is doomed to die [[ContrivedCoincidence somehow]], to the beta world line, where [[{{Tsundere}} Kurisu]] is doomed to be fatally stabbed]]. Subtly {{lampshade|Hanging}}d when Rintaro then gives a huge, [[LargeHam hammy]] speech proclaiming his victory, clearly on the verge of tears the whole time. [[spoiler:Then subverted when it turns out that the beta world line must be averted in order to prevent World War III, and the way to do this is to go back in time again and save Kurisu, thus preventing an international time machine arms race and moving into a world line that Rintaro's future self dubs the "[[TitleDrop Steins]] [[MeaninglessMeaningfulWords Gate]] world line".]]
* ''Webcomic/TowerOfGod'' basically hands Pyrrhic Victories out like candy -- or, just murky ones where you wind up unsure if a clear "loss" or "gain" was ever possible in the first place. Every last win has a price (even the apparently clear ones), and many of them are steep to the point of only looking like a win on paper, particularly if you don't scrutinise either the build-up, the background shenanigans or the longer-term damage. It even manages to hand out the inverse, of course: Pyrrhic Losses happen to major or majorish characters where, although they technically or even practically lost, they won the mid-game or got a surprise gain related to their main goals from it, even if it wasn't the target they were specifically aiming at at the time.
* In ''Manga/AttackOnTitan'', it seems that humanity is doomed to experience these. Any victory they manage to obtain by the skin of their teeth comes with heavy losses, and massive destruction, with the survivors wondering whether or not it could even be considered a true victory. Jean also questions whether any victory that requires them to [[HeWhoFightsMonsters throw away their humanity]] can even be considered a victory, rejecting the tendency of his superiors (and Armin) to fall back on stating that IDidWhatIHadToDo.
** During the battle of Trost, humanity obtains their first real victory, taking back the city from the Titans. But with the city massively damaged, hundreds wounded or dead, and the gate forever sealed (undoing four years of the Survey Corps' hard work), no one feels like celebrating.
** The raid on Stohess District ultimately succeeds in [[spoiler:capturing Annie, thereby proving the existence of Titan Shifter spies and saving Eren from being handed over to the authorities]]. But with the city badly damaged, and the heavy toll on both civilian and military lives, many are horrified when Erwin states that it can be considered a victory. That [[spoiler:Annie encased herself in a CrystalPrison to prevent interrogation]] does not help matters. Not to mention that a good portion of the populace is [[WhatTheHellHero outraged]] that the Survey Corps conducted such a destructive, deadly mission right in the heart of humanity's capital.
** The mission to rescue Eren is successful, but at a massive physical and emotional cost. [[spoiler:Erwin loses his right arm in the battle]], and [[spoiler:Hannes]] is among the ''many'' killed during the prolonged chase and battle. [[spoiler:Krista is also successfully retrieved]], but [[spoiler:Ymir flees along with the exposed traitors -- Reiner and Bertolt]]. That [[spoiler:the group's surrogate Big Brother and TeamDad is TheMole]] is a devastating blow to everyone.
** The mission to [[spoiler:reseal Shinganshima and find a way into the basement of Eren's childhood home]] is also successful, but with heavy losses, to the point at which [[spoiler:there are only ''nine'' survivors in the entire Survey Corps]]. In particular, [[spoiler:Erwin dies of his injuries, and while Armin is saved by an EmergencyTransformation into a Titan followed by him eating Bertolt to steal his Colossus Titan ability, Armin now only has 13 years to live]].
* Toward the end of the Golden Age Arc in ''Manga/{{Berserk}}'', the Band of the Hawk succeed in rescuing their leader Griffith [[spoiler: from the torture dungeon in the Tower of Rebirth in Wyndham]] against all of the odds that were thrown at them (which included the king's guards, foreign assassins, and an exiled band of sadistic murdering and raping mercenaries led by a truly nasty Apostle). However, in the end, not much came out of it [[spoiler:since Griffith was too horribly damaged from the torture he endured to be the leader or the man that he once was]]. HarsherInHindsight though -- despite how cruel it sounds, the Hawks were ''probably'' better off not rescuing Griffith at all [[FromBadToWorse if they knew what was going to happen to them when the Eclipse went down.]]
* In ''Anime/YuGiOhZEXAL'', when Kite defeats Mizar in a Duel. The cost? [[spoiler:He dies from the cold vacuum of space afterward.]]
* In the backstory of the original ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam'', Zeon had two. The first was the Battle of Loum, in which they crushed the Federation fleet at the price of nearly exhausting their own military itself (it's learning of this, alongside Revil's RousingSpeech as he told them this, that made the Federation decide to continue fighting instead of surrendering). Then there's the invasion of Earth itself, in which Zeon defeats numerous Federation armies and takes over large parts of the planet... And gets involved in a brutal attrition war against a foe that outnumbers and outproduces them by a ridiculous margin, wasting resources needed to build up the fleet for when the Federation ''will'' bring the battle back to space.
** The final battle at A Baoa Qu. In the end Zeon is defeated and reverts to a Republic, but the Federation military (and the government's hold on its more militant elements) was weakened to the point that those remnants of Zeon's military that rejected the armistice are still a major threat. Furthermore, [[ReasonableAuthorityFigure Revil]] was killed by the opening shot of the battle, so there's nobody to keep the military's most extremist elements in check and the Federathe did before with so much scrutiny on her]]. Marcy, having fought tooth and nail for this victory, doesn't take it well, but does come to terms with it.
* All Might's battle with [[spoiler:All For One]] in ''Manga/MyHeroAcademia'' ends in one for him. All Might is victorious but [[spoiler:his true form is revealed to the world, and he uses up the last bit of One For All during their fight. Forcing him to retire. His opponent All For One meanwhile is locked up for good, but believes that his absence will spur his pupil on to become a stronger villain and feels that he came out ahead.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''Comicbook/SinCity'': All victories in this series are Pyrrhic and then some.
* ''The ComicBook/{{Onslaught}}'' crossover invoked this trope by name in the last trade paperback that collected the series. [[spoiler:Virtually every major hero within the main Franchise/MarvelUniverse is forced to sacrifice themselves in order to stop the main villain, Onslaught, by giving him a physical body. The mutants present at the fight, who were unable to sacrifice themselves in the above fashion, are forced to slaughter the heroes in order to destroy Onslaught once and for all, though much of the world ended up believing that they had simply killed off a huge crowd of beloved heroes.]]
* After Comicbook/CivilWar ends in the death of Comicbook/CaptainAmerica, ComicBook/IronMan actually [[InvokedTrope mentions Pyrrhus]] in ''The Confession''. Overwhelmed with guilt and grief, he ultimately concludes that the victory [[WasItReallyWorthIt was worthless]].
* When Franchise/{{Batman}} faces [[BackFromTheDead Jason Todd]], who forces him to [[SadisticChoice choose]] between letting Joker die or killing Jason, Batman [[TakeAThirdOption makes Jason drop his weapon and sends him into shock]] by [[ImprobableAimingSkills throwing a batarang at a pipe so it rebounds and cuts the side of Jason's neck]].
-->'''Joker''': You managed to find a way to win... and everybody still ''loses''!!
* ''Comicbook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths'': The heroes beat the Anti Monitor but in the process the entire multiverse is lost (and this is canon.) Arguably, the heroes can't be held responsible for the worlds lost before they got involved, but there were still six or seven worlds remaining when they began their counter offensive, two of them were destroyed and the other five were collapsed into one that was almost but not quite like one of the five with a few borrowed elements from the other four.
** And thanks to ''Comicbook/BrightestDay'', the Anti Monitor is back and ready to give it another go. We're either in for epic VillainDecay or the GrandFinale of the DC Universe.
** At least there are now 52 universes but none of them are the ones that were destroyed (though some are like the ones lost.)
* ''ComicBook/TheLongHalloween'' ends on this. Batman, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Dent form an alliance to take down Carmine Falcone just as Batman's familiar RoguesGallery start to appear like ComicBook/TheJoker, Scarecrow, ComicBook/PoisonIvy, and ComicBook/TheRiddler. Falcone's empire is brought down--but the series ends with the RoguesGallery in control and Harvey Dent has been transformed into Comicbook/TwoFace, with one of his first acts as Two-Face being killing Falcone himself, and both Batman and Gordon wondering "WasItReallyWorthIt"
* ''ComicBook/MonicasGang'': Frankie gave his dog a bone and said dog spent most of the story trying to recover it from one adversity after another. By the time he got it back, he no longer had any teeth.
* In ''ComicBook/ArchieComicsSonicTheHedgehog'', the Freedom Fighters defeat Eggman, at the cost of Princess Sally being roboticized.
* One volume of ''ComicBook/{{Daredevil}}'' ends with Matt Murdock exposing the Sons of the Serpent and saving a many [[ClearMyName Wrongly Accused]], but, because he revealed his identity as Daredevil, he is disbarred from practicing law in New York for perjury, which threatens his friend "Foggy" Nelson, as he's getting treatment for cancer. [[TakeAThirdOption Thankfully, he realizes he can practice law again in a state he previously did and moves to California.]]
* The two Battles of New Xerba in ''ComicBook/PaperinikNewAdventures'':
** The first is one for the Evronians: they have captured the last free Xerbians and [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu captured Xadhoom]] by using them as hostages, but all that means is that the device that [[SlaveLiberation reverse Coolflamization and prevents former Coolflames from being enslaved again on planetary scale]] is in the same place as [[PhysicalGoddess an entity that can power it and has all reasons to do so]], especially because by doing that the Evronians lose their hostages, leading immediately to the second.
** The second ends with the Evronian Empire losing their [[PlanetSpaceship mobile homeworld]], the Emperor, most of the Imperial Council, the best and brightest of the Scientific Caste and a large chunk of their military, shattering their might... And [[PhysicalGoddess Xadhoom]] [[HeroicSacrifice becoming a star to give a new homeworld to the last survivors of her people]], meaning the one person that could stop an Evronian resurgence is gone... And, as shown in the relaunch stories, ''there are still Evronians capable of rebuilding the Empire out there''.
* ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'' ended with [[spoiler: Ozymandias]] stopping World War III by creating a fake extraterrestrial monster and siccing it on New York, killing millions and forcing the US and Russia into a [[TeethClenchedTeamwork tenuous alliance]]. [[spoiler: Ozymandias]] however will be haunted forever by the lives he took to ensure peace. However, a clue [[spoiler: Rorschach left before he died]] might unravel the whole thing in any moment so [[spoiler: Ozymandias']] scheme might come to nothing.
* ''ComicBook/DisneyDucksComicUniverse'': In one story, Donald buys his first cell phone and tries to impress Daisy with it by calling her from ever increasing distances from Duckburg. However, each time Daisy informs him she’s already received a cell phone call from one of her friends from a greater distance away, prompting Donald to travel even further and try again. Donald is about to give up when Daisy receives a cell phone call from a friend in Australia, but then he gets [[AlienAbduction abducted by aliens]]. The story ends with Donald calling Daisy from the aliens’ home planet, stating that he won but he’s not happy about it.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* Jason in ''ComicStrip/{{Foxtrot}}'' often purposely fools his siblings into "winning" bets that are this.
** In one HorribleCampingTrip, Jason bets Peter a dollar he can't hit a tree with a hatchet. Peter takes that bet, and hits it perfectly. When Andy is angrily chewing him out for doing something so dangerous, Jason considers the show a dollar well-spent.
** On one Thanksgiving, he bets Peter a dollar he can eat more than him. He eats two helpings and calls it quits; Peter eats 27 platefuls before even checking the score, eventually passing out without closing his eyes. Again, where else could Jason have gotten so much fun for a dollar?
** It happens to Jason himself when he bets Marcus fifty cents that he can write a longer essay. His thousand page essay easily trumps Marcus' 500-page one, but while Marcus gets an A on the essay, Jason, for all his work, gets a D, and fifty cents. (And he doesn't learn a thing afterwards.)
* A shortened version of the [[http://www.gocomics.com/garfield/2000/09/17 September 17th, 2000]] ''{{ComicStrip/Garfield}}'' strip is the image for this trope.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'': This series is rather good at giving us wins with undermining costs attached.
** It's heavily implied that whoever wins the Iron Throne in the end will have won such a victory, as the cost of warfare is rapidly depleting all their resources while an exceptionally long winter is coming.
** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Greens faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra), this came at great cost to their family. (1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead, (2) the majority of their strongest dragons are dead or disabled, (3) all the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died via poisoning and the throne ended up going to the last remaining son of Rhaenyra anyways... This son also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's on record as trying to hatch dragon eggs several times, and failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys II didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, and was trying to work it out while some of the pieces of the puzzle were still available.
** Sunfyre was a dragon that had an almost unmatched record of winning fights with other dragons. But, each duel fought added crippling scars to once-stunning dragon. It died in it's last fight in the civil war, a winner who died thanks to the injuries sustained over ''years'' as much as the immediate wounds.
** So, [[spoiler: Theon Greyjoy]] takes Winterfell in a daring attack using a small band of Ironborn raiders. So far, so good. But, deciding to try holding a large castle in enemy territory with a small number of allies? [[RealityEnsues Well...]]
** The War of the Five Kings was never going to be pretty, always was going to be prohibitively expensive and the harrowing of the Riverlands was worse than it strictly needed to be. But, the clean-up needing decades pales beside the fact that [[spoiler: Joffrey and Tywin were killed shortly after, Tyrion is on the run, Cersei is running the Kingdom into the ground and Kevin got killed just as he was trying to fix what he could. Winning only weakened House Lannister]].
** Cersei learns to her cost that populist religious movements are not a toy, even if they initially get you what you want. They play back. With interest.
* R.A Salvatore:
** ''[[Literature/TheIcewindDaleTrilogy The Crystal Shard]]'' has the final battle presented as one of these for the good guys.
** ''[[Literature/TheLegendOfDrizzt The Thousand Orcs]]'' has another. The last of the survivors of the attack on the town are spirited away by means involving a fake idol of Gruumsh, the orc god. When the other orc shamans hear about this, they not only bring in ''thousands'' of new recruits to avenge the sacrilege, they also perform a rare ritual on the orc king that makes him permanently stronger and quicker.
* In ''Literature/WorldWarZ'' humanity managed to be victorious over the zombie hordes. But the war and overall situation devastated the planet.
* In ''[[Literature/TheRiftwarCycle A Darkness at Sethanon]]'', the invading army of the moredhel finally captures the city of Armengar, but with devastating losses--not only is the city an invader's nightmare, built with technologies and magic long lost to mankind, but those in charge of the defense ''blow it up'' just when the invading army has finally broken through, leaving the moredhel with a ruined city and great losses. Ten years later, the risk of a devastating defeat or a Pyrrhic Victory is what spurs one of the moredhel chieftains to oppose the efforts to launch another invasion, going as far as allying himself with the humans to accomplish it.
* ''TabletopGame/Warhammer40000'':
** In Creator/DanAbnett's novel ''Literature/BrothersOfTheSnake'', a chapter of Space Marines retake a refinery from Chaos forces. They realize that the place was tainted by something it had pumped up from under the earth, and it could not be used any more -- which meant they could just have blasted it from orbit, without losing three Marines in the fight.
** In a similar vein, the defense of [[Literature/GauntsGhosts Vervunhive]], which leaves the hive with so many dead it is officially decommissioned at the end of the war. Although with Heritor Asphodel dead, Chaos has nothing to celebrate, either.
** Literature/CiaphasCain, in ''Caves of Ice'', digs his troops in to protect a Promethium refinery that he later has to annihilate to [[spoiler: stop a Necron tomb from reawakening]]. (Still, taking out an Ork Waaagh ''and'' a [[spoiler: Necron]] force is a solid deal for one refinery, especially since they managed to evacuate the facility beforehand.)
** The final book of the Literature/{{Ultramarines}} series has a surprisingly major one. The Ultramarines successfully beat back a massive force of traitor marines and permanently kill a daemon prince, an act practically unheard of in the universe, but Ultramar itself has lost several worlds and almost four companies' worth of marines.
** The novel ''Death of Antagonis'' in ''Literature/SpaceMarineBattles'' series is just a long string of those for the Black Dragons and just to punctuate it, their Captain goes traitor.
* '' Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' ends with a [[BolivianArmyEnding cliffhanger]] implying the deaths of all but one of the surviving protagonists. While worth it for the free fate of Earth (at least temporarily), almost all of the children who survived until the end of the war were emotionally broken beyond repair from their trauma and the things they were forced to do.
* ''Literature/TheGreatPacificWar'': The US victory is portrayed this way, wrecking the American shipping fleet and sending the economy into decline, causing it lag behind Britain and Germany as a world power.
* The third ''Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen'' book, ''Literature/MemoriesOfIce'', has two. First the siege of Capustan is lifted when the [[GondorCallsForAid protagonist army arrives]], but the defenders (who are honorable mercenaries) have nearly been killed to the man. This trope is used again in the concluding battle where the protagonist army captures Pale. But a huge percentage of the named protagonists are killed during this second battle and the army is a shell of it's former self.
* In ''Literature/TheWarlordChronicles'', the Battle of Baddon Hill is a major one for Myth/KingArthur. He smashes the Saxon forces, (including mortally wounding Aelle, one of the Saxon kings), but... [[spoiler:his most powerful and reliable ally, [[TheWisePrince Cuneglas]], dies in battle, the Christians gain greater influence in the sectarian battle against Pagans, [[CorruptChurch which they later use to undermine Arthur's non-sectarian government]], [[RoyalBrat Mordred]] [[BloodKnight discovers a taste for battle]], [[MerlinAndNimue Nimue turns against Merlin and Arthur for good]], etc. Some of these results are directly linked to Arthur's downfall]].
* ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'':
** Lampshaded: "Today we may make the enemy pay ten times our loss at the passage and yet [we may] rue the exchange. For he can afford to lose a host better than we to lose a company."
** In fact, Pyrrhic victories are quite common throughout Middle-Earth's history. The [[Literature/TheSilmarillion War of Wrath]] ended with Morgoth's defeat, but all of Beleriand was laid waste in the battle and sank under the sea. The Last Alliance managed to defeat Sauron, but lost so many people that the kingdoms of Elves and Men ended up depopulated and ripe for attack by Sauron's human allies, which led to the destruction of Arnor and the reduction of the Elves to just a few small settlements. Even the final victory over Sauron in ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' was Pyrrhic, in that destroying the Ring led to the final waning of 'magic' in Middle-Earth and the departure of the remaining Elves to the West.
** Other materials show the War of the Ring was almost much more this. If Erebor hadn't been held by the Dwarves Sauron's armies would have probably succeeded in destroying the Western lands, up to the Shire, and driving the last of the Elves overseas quicker despite Sauron's defeat. Thankfully averted, as the Dwarves of Erebor and the men of Dale held back part of Sauron's forces long enough for news of his defeat to reach them.
** The other two Battles of Beleriand against Morgoth (that the Elves actually won) were Pyrrhic as well. The first ended with one faction of Elves demoralized so badly they essentially demilitarized and took to a "stay hidden" policy against Morgoth since the bloodline of their leaders was killed off, while the second ended with the death of Fëanor, greatest of all the Elves. Sure it was still a crushing victory for the Elves short-term, and he was [[ByronicHero a right bastard to be sure,]] but one can only imagine what he would have done for the war effort (not to mention morale) had he lived.
** Nírnaeth Arnoediad was partially this for Morgoth. Despite winning his greatest victory in Middle-Earth and securing much of the North, it is some time before his forces recover.
* {{Lampshade|Hanging}}d in ''Literature/TheLiesOfLockeLamora''. [[spoiler: Locke and Jean kill their enemies, but they have to leave Camorr forever, they're both injured (Locke especially so), and all their friends are, by the way, dead.]] The exchange goes something like:
-->'''Locke:''' So this is winning.\\
'''Jean:''' It is.\\
'''Locke:''' It can go fuck itself.
* ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' has several such victories, most notably in ''Literature/TurnCoat''. [[spoiler: Morgan is dead, the (only identified) traitor in the council is dead, Dresden and [=McCoy=] have no further information on the Black Council, the White Council has lost three of its most valuable members (the man Morgan was framed for murdering, Morgan, and the traitor), virtually everyone within the council needs to go in for {{deprogram}}ming from mind-control magics, the Senior Council is now living in a permanent state of wondering if their actions were truly their own, and their newest member may or may not be a member of the Black Council.]]
** Also, ''Literature/GravePeril.'' Dresden got the girl back, but couldn't save her. And in the process, started a war.
** ''Literature/{{Changes}}'': [[spoiler: So Harry won the war, wiped out the ''entire'' Red Court, and saved his daughter. He only had to make a HumanSacrifice of his daughter's mother and become Mab's servant. And as ''Literature/GhostStory'' shows, destroying the Red Court only led to an EvilPowerVacuum and even ''worse'' forces moving in]].
** ''Literature/SkinGame'': [[spoiler: Though not for Harry this time, but for Nicodemus. He managed to recover the Holy Grail, but lost the other four artifacts (which were strongly implied to have been his real targets), two Denarians and their coins, his followers, his influence and reputation in the supernatural world, and even his own daughter. And if that wasn't enough, the only other success he had from the book, shattering the Sword of Faith, was undone when Butters turned it into a [[Franchise/StarWars lightsaber]].]]
* Described as an inevitability in [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergey_Lukyanenko Sergey Lukyanenko's]] novel ''Literature/{{Genome}}'' in a war between two galactic powers with relatively equal military strength. A historical example is cited with the ancient Taii Empire, whose territory once spanned much of what is now owned by the younger races. They engaged in an all-out war with another empire, resulting in a Taii military victory but at the cost of utter devastation of their empire. The Taii briefly described in the book are now a [[VestigialEmpire dying power]], holding no more then several dozen worlds and flying enormous ships that are ridiculously inferior when compared with more modern ships of the younger races. The same fate is predicted for the humans or the Czygu in a total BugWar. This prospect would force the humans to recruit the aid of a colony of {{Church Militant}}s whose goal is the total extermination of all aliens for the betterment of the "true children of God." This would cause all other alien races to ally against humanity, resulting in this for ''everyone'' who survives.
* ''Literature/EndersGame'' has Ender defeat the Buggers, only he ends up doing so by wiping them out entirely when they were revealed to have attacked only before they realized humans were sentient, and he gets exiled from Earth as well (not to mention how every human ship involved in the battle is destroyed either by Bugger Defenders or the M.D. Device).
* In ''Literature/HarryPotter'', the backstory of [[BigBad Voldemort]]'s wizarding ancestors the House of Gaunt reveals that they were originally very wealthy and influential in wizarding society. However, they were also '''''VERY''''' [[AristocratsAreEvil arrogant]], to the point that they maintained their blood purity (namely from Salazar Slytherin, one of the founders of Hogwarts) via inbreeding. This had led to a ''NUMBER'' of defects in the family line, which included mental instability. By the time of Voldemort's birth, the Gaunts had managed to maintain their blood purity...[[ImpoverishedPatrician at the cost of their family fortune]], [[BigScrewedUpFamily sanity]], and [[HowTheMightyHaveFallen prestige]], all of which would have given their boasts a ''LOT'' more credibility.
* In the ''Literature/FarsalaTrilogy'' by Creator/HilariBell, the Roman Empire {{Expy}} have many rules about their conquering of other territories and one of those rules is that if they don't have full control of the country within a year then they will withdraw their forces and offer allegiance with it instead or just leave it alone. This rule was put in place because early in their history, they were victors of this and vowed that victory would never cost so high again. According to the books, they're so good at taking over countries that out of the dozens they'd taken over only two were been able to resist past the time limit.
* In the ''Literature/{{Percy Jackson|AndTheOlympians}}'' series, Kronos, the Titan Lord, is called 'the Crooked One' for his ability to engineer schemes which leaves the good guys in a tight spot either way. It is possible to foil him, but it almost never happens without cost, often a heavy one.
** The third book is a good example of this. They finished their quest, saved Artemis and stopped the baddies from harnessing the powers of a world-destroying beast...but [[spoiler: two of their teammates died in the process]], and [[spoiler: the younger brother of the second one is ''not'' happy]]. It got worse when Percy realized that not only did he have another demigod bent on killing him, but said demigod was [[spoiler: a son of Hades, which qualified him in the prophecy that could destroy Olympus and all of Western civilization]]. Ouch.
* In ''Literature/StarshipTroopers'', it's pointed out early on in the war that killing 1,000 bugs for each human is a net victory for the bugs, as their soldiers can be hatched at need and can be ready to fight in a matter of weeks, while it takes the better part of a year to make a Cap Trooper battle-ready.
* In ''Arena'', a short story by Creator/FredricBrown, an [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence energy being]], right before the first major battle between humans and aliens, states that they cannot coexist peacefully, and a war between the two will end in one extinction and one stone age. Since both races had the ''potential'' to evolve to the energy-being's level, ''unless'' their civilization was ruined by this war, the energy being snatched up both a human and an alien Roller and pit them against each other in a one-on-one duel with the complete and instant annihilation of the enemy's battle fleet up as the stakes specifically to avert this outcome.
* The backstory to ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'' series has the triumph of the Light and the sealing of the Dark One in the Age of Legends made out to be one of these for all concerned. The backlash of the sealing left a taint on the male half of the One Power that doomed every man who touched the Power to creeping insanity and death, without exception; this left a bunch of completely insane men with the power to level cities and raise mountains running around causing almost as much damage as the war that they ended would have, destroying so much that the knowledge and culture of the Age of Legends was in large part lost forever. And for Lews Therin, the hero who led the charge to seal the Dark One? His nemesis tracks him down at his mansion and uses a Dark version of Healing to cure his madness, allowing Lews Therin to see that, while insane, he had murdered everyone and everything he had ever loved. He did not take it well.
* ''Literature/TimeScout'': Congratulations, Skeeter! You just stood up to a bully! A bully with massive wealth, criminal connections, government power, and a vindictive nature. And you've a checkered past he won't have any trouble using against you.
* ''Literature/TheHungerGames'':
** Winning the Games is depicted as such. Because ThereAreNoTherapists, survivors of the arena walk out with wealth and fame for life, but with severe PTSD and ''nothing'' to help them cope with their experiences -- ''and'' they have to mentor the tributes for the following Hunger Games, until they die. For example, Haymitch, the mentor to Katniss, has spent twenty-four year trying to mentor children and bringing home corpses. The trope is Invoked in this case -- the Capitol doesn't want the Victors to be able to lead a coup.
** [[spoiler: Katniss's]] mental breakdown in ''Mockingjay''. [[spoiler:Even though the Capitol fell, Prim's death takes precedence.]]
* In ''Literature/IHaveNoMouthAndIMustScream'', Ted is damned to AndIMustScream for eternity, but he manages to save Benny, Ellen, Gorrister and Nimdok from the same fate. AM itself is also effectively condemned to an equally awful fate; quite who exactly the pyrrhic victor is can be debated.
-->-- "At least the four of them are safe at last. AM will be all the madder for that. It makes me a little happier. And yet... AM has won, simply... he has taken his revenge... I have no mouth. AndIMustScream."
* In one of ''Literature/TheHistoryOfTheGalaxy'' novels, the first battlefield use of the LIGHT [[AntiMatter annihilator]] device by LaResistance results in the total destruction of not one but two [[TheEmpire Earth Alliance]] armadas. However, the colonists lose nearly all ships in the process, leaving them with a total of ''eight'' warships, while Earth still has plenty of ships in other systems. They also lose the only existing annihilator they have (at the moment). Their only advantage is the fact that Earth has no idea the colonies are virtually defenseless. The new colonial admiral manages to enact a daring plan to steal two flagship-class cruisers from an Alliance shipyard... by stealing the shipyard with tugs. Oh, and the admiral's own son was killed in the explosion.
* In Dickens' ''Literature/BleakHouse'', one of the major plot points of the book is the infamous legal case Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. Near the end of the book, the characters finally win the case, but the cost and time—several years, and the modern equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars—that had to be invested in trying to untangle its legal MindScrew rendered it bankrupt by the time they finally finished. It ate up all its own assets, which would have been worth a fortune if it had been some halfway competent lawyers who drew up the mess in the first place.
* Yes, at the end of the ''Literature/StarTrekDestiny'' series the Borg are eliminated as a threat once and for all. It only cost 63 ''billion'' lives, dozens if not hundreds of inhabited planets throughout the Alpha Quadrant, the destruction of almost half of Starfleet, and significant casualties among all of the other major powers of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. President Bacco states that the toll essentially sets the Federation back almost a century.
* ''[[Literature/{{Reckless}} The Mirrorworld Series]]'': [[spoiler: Sure, Jacob ultimately accomplishes what he set out to do, but then there are all those people who end up dead..]].
* In ''Literature/TheLostFleet'', the 100 years war between TheAlliance and the [[OneNationUnderCopyright Syndicate Worlds]] is chock full of such battles. Any victory is won with huge casualties. This is in large part due to both sides forgetting complex fleet tactics and switches to an AttackAttackAttack mentality, where each ship individually charges into battle and hopes to win through sheer "fighting spirit". Battleships are considered to be posts for cowards, as they have too much armor and shields and can't get to the battle fast enough. Then Captain John "Black Jack" Geary is discovered as a HumanPopsicle and revived and uses his knowledge of fleet tactics to win without this trope... though the Alliance "won" in the sense that it isn't [[BalkanizeMe tearing itself apart]] ''quite'' as fast or as bloodily as the Syndicate Worlds.
* In the backstory of ''Literature/{{Warday}}'', the US technically won WorldWarIII. The Soviet Union is apparently in total anarchy, while the US is merely moving towards a DividedStatesOfAmerica situation.
* ''Franchise/StarWarsLegends'':
** Invoked by name in ''Literature/DarthMaulShadowHunter''. This triggers FridgeLogic when you wonder [[OrphanedEtymology who it was named for]].
** In the ''ComicBook/XWingSeries'' novels ''Wedge's Gamble'' and ''The Krytos Trap'', Ysanne Isard attempts to turn the New Republic conquest of Coruscant into one of these by poisoning its water supply with a virus that kills nonhumans but is harmless to humans, trying to DivideAndConquer. The attempt fails.
** ''Literature/NewJediOrder'':
*** In the ''Enemy Lines'' two-parter, Wedge Antilles commands the defense of Borleias against the Yuuzhan Vong after the fall of Coruscant. The Yuuzhan Vong gain the planet, but in the process lose a worldship and one of their greatest generals--former warmaster Czulkang Lah--among other heavy losses. The New Republic forces fare far better: while they do end up sacrificing the Super Star Destroyer ''Lusankya'' to destroy the worldship, they do so without losing the ''Lusankya''[='=]s crew and most of its weapons (which were transplanted to other ships, ''Lusankya'' having already taken considerable damage before the final confrontation). Furthermore, the tactical victory was worthless: Wedge's goal in the campaign was simply to drag out the battle and buy time for the New Republic to regroup, while inflicting as many losses on the enemy as possible. Czulkang Lah's final communication to his son, Warmaster Tsavong Lah, shows another perspective on the trope:
--->'''Tsavong Lah:''' Still, a great victory.\\
'''Czulkang Lah:''' No, son. Limited facts can point at victory when in fact there is only defeat to taste.\\
'''Tsavong Lah:''' Defeat? You have achieved the conditions of victory. You have once more brought glory to Domain Lah.\\
'''Czulkang Lah:''' In a minute I will be dead. Too many clever minds, however heretical they may be, have undone me.
*** A couple books later in ''Destiny's Way'', it's revealed that in the process of conquering half the galaxy, the Yuuzhan Vong have lost nearly a ''third'' of their warriors. This results in an untenable position for them, giving the New Republic, now the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances, a chance to fight back.
* The ending of ''Gifts'', the first book in ''Literature/AnnalsOfTheWesternShore''. [[spoiler:Canoc gets his revenge for his wife Melle's death by unmaking Ogge Drum, but he's killed by a Drum crossbowman. With Orrec unable to fulfill the duties of brantor through lack of gift, it's implied that Caspromant will lose its standing and, at least for the time being, become a part of Roddmant.]]
* In the ''Legacy of the Twins'' trilogy for ''Literature/{{Dragonlance}}'', towards the end, Caramon travels to [[BadFuture an alternate reality showing what will happen if Raistlin succeeds in opening the portal and confronting Takhisis]]: Raistlin defeats her, and all of the other gods, and becomes the sole god of the world... and, in the process, he ''exterminates all life''. Absolutely nothing is left on Ansalon or in TheMultiverse, just Raistlin, slowly dwindling away into oblivion as his madness and his empty, futile hunger consumes him utterly, as he is so corrupt and evil that he cannot even create new life to replace the old. [[spoiler: Caramon's revelation of this so horrifies Raistlin that he gives up and allows himself to be trapped in the Abyss, where Takhisis torments him forever more, because he cannot bear the thought of such a "victory".]]
* In ''Literature/HandleWithCare'', Charlotte wins the lawsuit against her best friend Piper but is left friendless with no social life and lost both daughters - one to shipped away to sort out her bulimic problems and the other drowned in a skating incident. Piper lost her job and her reputation is destroyed. Charlotte never had the chance to cash in the cheque because Willow died, placing the cheque in her coffin, making all her efforts moot.
* The first ''Literature/{{Dune}}'' novel ends with Paul Atreides defeating the Harkonnens, overthrowing Emperor Corrino by marrying his eldest daughter and receiving more praise from the Fremen for being TheChosenOne. Come [[Literature/DuneMessiah the next novel]], Paul's fanatical followers unleashed a jihad which destroyed many worlds in his name which gave him a lot of enemies and conspirators inside his court. Likewise, he's trapped in the prescient future where he couldn't do anything to stop the jihad that he created and feared that his family name would forever be tarnished including all the achievements that his father, Duke Leto, made in the past. Then, he foresaw that his Fremen lover, Chani, died of giving birth to his children and he's unable to prevent it. In the end, Paul went to the desert after being blinded by a stone burner while his twins and his empire are left in the hands of his sister, Alia, who is slowly possessed by their grandfather, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
* In Creator/AynRand's ''Literature/AtlasShrugged'', whenever the looters are going to seize one of the properties of the actual or future strikers, they end up with a worthless property. D'Anconia blows up his ore mines and docks, Dannager abandons his coal mines, Wyatt blows up his oil fields, Rearden walks away from his steel mill, etc.
* ''Literature/AngelInTheWhirlwind'':
** In ''The Oncoming Storm'', Kat Falcone manages to turn what should have been a major defeat for the Commonwealth into a strategic victory. Kat ruins the Theocracy's surprise attack by finding their staging area, forcing them to launch the invasion before the supply ships had caught up. Kat then leads most of a fleet weakened by an [[GeneralFailure incompetent admiral]] into an orderly retreat under fire, then joins with forces in much better shape to come back and rescue trapped Commonwealth ground forces and go scorched earth on the system's industrial base before also retreating. The Commonwealth is down a system but took relatively light casualties, while the Theocrats are stuck with a worthless system and serious supply problems.
** In ''Falcone Strike'', characters on both sides regard forcing Pyrrhic victories in this manner as a winning strategy for the Commonwealth. Unlike the single-system polities that the Theocracy has rolled up before now, the Commonwealth is big enough to trade space for time as it ramps up war production, while the Theocrats are lacking in the required industries (due in part to revolt-suppressing economic strategies). If the Commonwealth can survive for two years or so, they'll gain the advantage.
* ''The Cat Ate My Gymsuit'', Marcy and the others' efforts pay off, and Ms. Finney is reinstated... only for her to promptly announce her resignation, [[RealityEnsues because the community is divided enough as-is, and she wouldn't be able to go back to teaching the way she did before with so much scrutiny on her]]. Marcy, having fought tooth and nail for this victory, doesn't take it well, but does come to terms with it.
* ''Literature/DreambloodDuology'': Ehiru manages to stop a major war between Gujaareh and Kisua... by basically making it possible for Kisua to walk right in and invade Gujaareh.
* ''Literature/TheStormlightArchive'': For millennia, the [[OurDemonsAreDifferent Voidbringers]] arrived in great Desolations to drive humanity off the face of the planet. Humanity, with the help of the divine Heralds, always managed to defeat them... but not without horrific casualties. It wasn't uncommon for ninety percent of the ''entire planet'' to be dead by the end of one Desolation, and they were knocked so far into the Stone Age that the Heralds couldn't be sure they'd have rediscovered ''bronze'' by the next Desolation. Eventually, the cycle of destruction became too much and the Heralds [[ScrewThisImOuttaHere gave up]], telling humanity they had finally won for good. By the time the next Desolation finally comes back, technology has advanced to the Steel Age, but people have forgotten all the magic and artifacts they once had. The Almighty advises that their best option is to just survive as long as they can; while they can't win without the lost artifacts, if they can convince the enemy that he might lose again, he'll begin making mistakes.
* In ''Black Swan Green'' by David Mitchell. [[spoiler: Dad sounding out Mum over been scammed for the Rock Garden]] Julia responds with an exchange:
-->'''Julia:''' In my exam today this term Im not totally sure about, ''Pyrrhic Victory'' came up. Do you know what a ''Pyrrhic Victory'' is Dad?\\
''Dad gave Julia a very complicated stare.''\\
'''Jason:''' A what victory?\\
'''Julia:''' Pyrrhic. Ancient Greece. A Pyrrhic Victory is one where you win, but the cost of winning is so high that it would’ve been better if you’d never bothered with the war in the first place. Useful word, isn’t it? So, Jace. Looks like we’re doing the dishes again. Wash or dry?
* In the ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' series, the Mesan Alignment managed a potentially crippling strike on the infrastructure of Manticore and its ally Grayson, just in time for their manipulation of the Solarian League leading to the largest navy in known space launching an overwhelming attack at Manticore. It seems to go off brilliantly, but it puts the Manticorans in such a precarious strategic position that they're willing to accept not only a permanent peace treaty with their decades-old enemy Haven but a formal military alliance when it's offered, and the Havenites deliver proof Mesa was behind everything, including their long war. The end result is that the two most technologically advanced and combat-experienced navies in the known galaxy team up, utterly curb-stomp the Solarian invasion force in the most one-sided battle in human history, and launch a plan to tear the Solarian League apart while also looking for revenge against Mesa. The Alignment leadership realizes things did not turn out quite the way they'd hoped.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* From ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'':
** {{Discussed|Trope}} in the two-part special "The Way of the Warrior", when the battle between ''Deep Space Nine'' and a Klingon attack force reaches a stalemate.
--->'''Worf:''' Consider what you do here today, Gowron! Kahless himself said, "Destroying an empire to win a battle ''is no victory''."\\
'''Gowron:''' "And ending a battle to save an empire is no defeat."
** In the opening battle of the Dominion War, Dukat managed to capture Deep Space 9, but lost over fifty ships, let Starfleet take out a vital shipyard while the fleet was otherwise occupied, and failed to bring in reinforcements through the wormhole thanks to Starfleet blockading it with self-replicating SpaceMines that took months to get rid of. Oh, and just to set the tin lid on it, Starfleet were able to hold the combined Cardassian[=/=]Jem'Hadar fleet off long enough to evacuate all their personnel ''and'' [[SaltTheEarth comprehensively trash the station itself]]. Dukat being [[IRejectYourReality Dukat]], he was [[WorthIt perfectly fine with this]]... At first. [[TraumaCongaLine Retaking the station was the last time anything went well for him for some time.]]
** {{Invoked|Trope}} in "What You Leave Behind" by the Female Changeling. GracefulLoser she is not. [[spoiler:Penned in by the allied fleets, now including the better part of the Cardassian military after a HeelRaceTurn sparked by her OrbitalBombardment of a city to quell a popular uprising, and near death from a biological weapon, she orders the Jem'Hadar to slaughter the entire Cardassian species. She only relents in exchange for Odo delivering the cure for the plague to the rest of the changelings, by which point 800 million Cardassians are dead.]]
---> ''"You may win this war, Commander, but I promise you, by the time it's over, you will have lost so many ships, so many lives, that your 'victory' will taste as bitter as defeat."''
* In ''Series/TheShield's'' series finale [[spoiler:Vic Mackey succeeded in getting away with everything he's done, but no friends in the world, his family relocated out of fear from him, his reputation as a cop destroyed for good and his new employment is guaranteed to be Hell for the next three years (an IronicHell he has to endure or his immunity deal is void and he goes to prison for life)]]. So yes, he won, but the cost was obscene.
* During the evacuation of New Caprica in ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}'', [[spoiler:the ''Galactica'' and most of the civilian ships manage to escape the planet...at the cost of massive damage to Galactica and the loss of the high-tech, advanced battlestar ''Pegasus'', which was capable of building Vipers. [[NiceJobBreakingItHero Nice job breaking it, Lee]]]].
* Londo Mollari on ''Series/BabylonFive'' had a few of these.
** In the third season, [[spoiler:Londo collaborates with G'Kar to assassinate the villainous Lord Refa, which ultimately removes the only moderating influence on an even ''worse'' leader, the insane Emperor Cartagia]].
** And then in the fourth season, [[spoiler:Londo and Vir kill off Cartagia and Morden and blow up all the Shadow ships stationed on Centauri Prime, finally freeing the planet from the Shadows' influence... only to cause the Drahk to take over the place in revenge in the final season, leading to Centauri Prime's isolation from the rest of the galaxy, the firebombing of its cities, and just general devastation of the whole planet. And not only does Londo have to watch all this unfold, but he also gets possessed by a BodySnatcher -- and he has to live with all this for the rest of his life. Brr....]].
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** At the end of "Last of the Time Lords" [[spoiler:the Master gets shot by [[TheDogBitesBack Lucy Saxon]] after the Doctor's ended his regime over the Earth. Rather than regenerate (and subsequently spend the rest of his life imprisoned on the Doctor's TARDIS) he chooses to die, leaving the Doctor alone as the only living Time Lord once again (for the moment). It's a pyrrhic victory for them both]].
--->'''Doctor:''' You've got to! Come on. It can't end like this. You and me, all the things we've done. Axons! Remember the Axons? And the Daleks. We're the only two left. There's no one else... REGENERATE!\\
'''Master:''' Look at that.. I win!
*** However, [[spoiler:the Master pulls a ThanatosGambit by anticipating his death and getting his cult to resurrect him a year later]]. But he's not the only one. [[spoiler:Lucy Saxon has also made arrangements to prevent this and ends up making a HeroicSacrifice to prevent her husband's resurrection; he ends up [[CameBackWrong Coming Back Wrong]]]].
** The Doctor's victory in "The Waters of Mars." [[spoiler:He saved the remaining crew but changed history in the process, believing that the rules of Time will bend to his will. Adelaide realizes how wrong the turn of events is and subsequently kills herself in order to correct the timeline.]] The only thing [[spoiler:her suicide]] did was cause the Doctor to realize how wrong he'd been, thinking that he's untouchable. [[spoiler:The timeline was already altered, as the survivors revealed what happened to the authorities; in the original timeline, the events on Mars remained a mystery.]]
** The Doctor in "The War Games" is forced to call on the Time Lords to end the War Games. The humans are sent back to their own times, the BigBad is dematerialised, but Jamie and Zoe are sent back to their own times with their memories erased and the Second Doctor is exiled to Earth and forced to regenerate.
** In the final episode of "Earthshock", the Doctor, having just learned that, instead of destroying 26th Century Earth, the space freighter will crash into the prehistoric Earth and cause the extinction of the dinosaurs, tells the Cyber Leader: "You've lost!" The Cyber Leader retorts that the Doctor "will not enjoy the victory", meaning he will not be alive to enjoy it. Instead, the Doctor doesn't enjoy the victory because it is overshadowed by Adric's death. (Adric, unaware of the freighter's significance in Earth's timeline, is killed trying to prevent it from crashing.)
* At the end of the ''Series/{{Torchwood}}'' miniseries ''Children of Earth'', Jack manages to save the world. [[spoiler: However, in order to do so, he had to kill his grandson. Not to mention that his boyfriend also just died in the previous episode...]]
* In ''Series/ThatMitchellAndWebbLook'' one episode of [[{{Calvinball}} Numberwang]] went on for so long that the game went into SuddenDeath. The first contestant to inhale enough of the poisonous Number Gas won. But, y'know, ''died''.
* In ''Series/PowerRangersRPM'', in the GrandFinale, after three long years the rangers win the RobotWar... but by the time the BigBad goes down, at ''least'' 90% of humanity is dead, with the entire planet outside of Corinth's protective dome having been bombed to a post-nuclear war wasteland. Plants are just starting to regrow in the less radioactively "hot" areas, but the global ecosystem is by and large too far gone to recover most of the lost biodiversity or return with new life with any speed.
* Sylar finds this out the hard way in Volume 5 of ''Series/{{Heroes}}''. He's got everything he ever wanted. He's the most powerful Evolved Human on the face of the Earth. He's immortal and invulnerable to harm. There's maybe a grand total of two people (that we know of) who could realistically pose a threat to him and he can easily take all the powers he wants. He's also killed the only two people who ever cared for him and realises that he's now going to be utterly alone, wretched and despised for eternity. It's enough to mke him have yet another HeelFaceTurn, this one seemingly more permanent than the previous ones.
* In the series finale of ''Series/{{Angel}}'' the main cast has successfully set back Wolfram and Hart's plans for the apocalypse by at least several years. The cost is the loss of their control over the firm's earthly assets, the death of two major characters, abandonment of a third, severe wounding of a fourth, and a textbook BolivianArmyEnding. And despite all of that, they decide to make their end memorable.
* ''Series/TwentyFour'' excels at this. America always wins but at the cost of many lives and politically, nothing ever changes; another group of terrorists will just show up in the next season. [[CrapsackWorld Living in the world of 24 just sucks.]]
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'':
** There's an odd example at the end of the fifth season. Sam and Dean manage to defeat [[spoiler: Lucifer, but at the cost of Sam having to [[FateWorseThanDeath jump into Lucifer's cage]]. Particularly heartbreaking because all Dean was trying to do was [[BigBrotherInstinct save his brother]] for most of the series. Then it turns out that Sam's ''[[MindScrew actually alive after all]]''... but we find out in S6 that he's now TheSoulless and TheSociopath. When he gets his soul back, he also gets back the memories of being tortured by Lucifer in the Cage for over 120 years, and the resulting PTSD nearly kills him]]. Though technically, Eric Kripke intended to end ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' with season five, [[spoiler:and both Sam ''and'' Dean were supposed to go into the cage]].
** Season six ends with [[spoiler:WellIntentionedExtremist Castiel]] preventing ArchangelRaphael from restarting the Apocalypse. To do so, [[spoiler: he only [[DealWithTheDevil allies with a demon]] he then betrays, [[JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope kills his closest angel allies]], [[KickTheDog breaks Sam's mind]], then absorbs all the monster souls from Purgatory for the [[WithGreatPowerComesGreatInsanity power]] to [[AGodAmI declare himself the new God]]]].
** And if this wasn't bad enough, season seven opens with [[spoiler:Castiel [[DisproportionateRetribution smiting]] numerous angels who opposed him and humans who offended him, and [[PhlebotinumOverload losing control]] of this power so it releases [[EldritchAbomination voracious, unkillable monsters]] from Purgatory on the world]].
** Season 7 has [[spoiler: Sam and Dean successfully kill the Leviathans and save humanity from a future of being mindless cattle, but Dean and Castiel are sent to Purgatory in the ensuing blast, Meg and Kevin are captured by Crowley's demons, and Bobby by then has passed on. So basically Sam is alone with Crowley in control of the power vacuum caused by the Leviathans]].
** Another one at the end of Season 4. Sam [[spoiler:kills Lilith, the season's BigBad, but in doing so breaks the final seal and frees [[GreaterScopeVillain Lucifer]] from his Cage]].
** At the end of Season 10, Sam [[spoiler:cures Dean of the Mark of Cain... but the result is the freeing of [[SealedEvilInACan the Darkness]], the original source of evil in the Universe]].
* The eponymous team of ''Series/StargateSG1'' is [[WhatTheHellHero accused]] [[NiceJobBreakingItHero of this]] from time to time in the show. In one episode they're bragging that they've done more in the last few years to defeat the Goa'uld than other groups have managed to do in centuries. The ally they're talking to points out that all they've really done is create power vacuums among the System Lords that have almost inevitably resulted in even worse individuals attaining power. Since Jack is usually the one this is directed at, his response amounts to "at least we're trying."
* The ''Series/ChinesePaladin'' (Xian Jian Qi Xia Zhuan) TV Series [[spoiler: definitely qualifies here, as the main character, Li Xiaoyao, literally loses everyone dear to himself except his newborn daughter a couple scenes right after the "final battle."]]
* Played for laughs in ''Series/{{Friends}}'' when Chandler got the highest score in ''Ms. Pac-Man'' but his hand became spasmed and stuck in a "claw" formation.
-->I got the highest score, but at a price.
* The Battle of Witchhead in ''Series/{{Andromeda}}'' turned into this for the [[StrawNihilist Nietzscheans]], although they arrived to the battle preparing to ambush a fleet of 100 High Guard ships with an armada of 1500, which would've been a CurbStompBattle. Then Hunt (AKA the Angel of Death) shows up and wipes out 1000 ships, damaging the rest, and sewing disarray among the Nietzchean ranks. The High Guard fleet shows up shortly after and is still wiped out, but the Neitzscheans are left with hardly anything themselves. In fact, the ruling Drago-Kazov Pride was supposed to form the dynasty for the new Nietzschean Empire, but their losses mean that they no longer have the power to unite the warring prides, resulting in a 300-year power vacuum.
** Interestingly, the pride that turned on the Drago-Kazov and prevented them from forming an empire ends up allying with Hunt 300 years later, as they have been mortal enemies with the Drago-Kazov since then.
* In ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'', Marshall was able to win a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company but the judge was unwilling to hurt the company by fining them with the intended 25 million dollars and so, reduced it to 25 ''thousand'' (0.1% of the original). Marshall was very upset since more was probably spent on court fees and lawyer paychecks for each side. [[spoiler: This event would inspire him to apply to be a judge so he would have more influence on the system.]] An earlier episode revealed that Marshall's law firm kept itself afloat by settling all their cases and avoiding fighting any cases where they could experience one. Marshall inspired them to contest cases in court again which resulted in his case ending up as one. By the end of the season [[spoiler: the law firm is broke and has laid off almost all employees]].
** Ted experiences this when [[spoiler: he ensured that [[IWantMyBelovedToBeHappy Robin would go after Barney]] at the expense of leaving him alone at the opening of the building he designed]]. The last scene is him looking out a window depressed while the rest of the gang was happy.
* In ''Series/{{Revolution}}'' the rebellion led by Miles Matheson is winning victories against the Monroe Republic but for Miles every such victory is pyrrhic. Every fighter he loses is someone he cannot replace and the enemies he is killing are old friends and protegees of his. Even if he removes Monroe from power, the Republic will be finished and it will become part of the Georgia Federation.
* Occasionally happens on ''Series/TopGear'' with their races or challenges. For example, in the four-way race across London during rush-hour traffic between a bike, a car, public transportation and a motorboat down the Thames, Hammond, riding the bike, won, but he spent the entire episode cursing out traffic lights and almost getting hit by buses. He was also visibly exhausted by the end. Jeremy came in second on the boat, but he had by far the most relaxing and least stressful journey.
** As this is a show all about how awesome cars are, the fact that the winners all beat a car caused Clarkson to declare that the entire race was a lie and he in fact died when his boat exploded.
** The end of the Bolivia and especially the Argentina specials. Having driven their cars all that distance, they certainly didn't achieve much for their trouble.
* The ''Series/RedDwarf'' episode "Meltdown" has Rimmer leading "good" waxdroids of [[HistoricalDomainCharacter famous historical figures]] against "evil" waxdroids. His plan ends with Kryten turning the planet's boiler up, thus melting every last waxdroid. Since they had [[GrewBeyondTheirProgramming more or less become the figures they were based on]], this is akin to mass murder on all sides. Rimmer, however, considers the ordeal a victory for himself.
* ''Series/TheWire'' is a whole series of pyrrhic victories as the police generally succeed in jailing drug lords, only to have even worse ones take over in the aftermath. Not to mention that the aftermath consists of gangs violently battling for control of the drug trade.
* This is tackled in the ''Series/XenaWarriorPrincess'' episode "A Good Day". She and Gabrielle save a village caught in the middle of Caesar and Pompey's war by performing a SaltTheEarth campaign. As they light funeral pyres for their dead, Xena tells Gabrielle "it was a good day of battle".
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' season 2 ended with her killing Series/{{Angel}} to save the world, [[HeelFaceDoorSlam right after his soul was already restored]]. That and a combination of Buffy's mother rejecting her and Kendra's death getting pinned on her caused Buffy to run away to Los Angeles.
* ''Series/PersonOfInterest''. Team Machine's victories have become more pyrrhic since season 4, often ruining innocent lives to save them from Samaritan. What's sadder is that no matter what they do, Samaritan just keeps winning. [[spoiler:Defeating Samaritan once and for all required the team to fry the entire internet while they preserved the Machine by uploading it to a satellite and then have it download back to Earth after the virus ran its course. Root, Reese and Elias were all killed by Samaritan agents by the time it was all over, and Finch faked his death in the same explosion that killed Reese so that he could have a personal happy ending with Grace in Italy.]]
* ''Series/{{The Twilight Zone|1959}}'' episode "[[Recap/TheTwilightZoneS5E145TheMasks The Masks]]" has a benign, rich, and dying Jason Foster having to deal with his greedy, callous, and hypochondriac daughter, her husband, and their vile children in the last hours of his life. They are there just to see him die so they can inherit his vast fortune and he knows it. So, he makes an addendum to his will: if any of them removes a special mask he had made for them before midnight, one which as he says reflects the opposite of their "true" face, [[note]]though in truth holds all the ugliness and vile characters their pretty faces hide, [[/note]] they will inherit only enough money to take the train back to Boston. They succeed and Jason soon dies after midnight. [[spoiler:When they remove the masks, they see their faces have contorted and shifted to be perfect matches for the ugly masks they were just wearing for hours. Now they must suffer these faces which reflect their inner vanity and pettiness]].
* ''Series/{{Nikita}}'' season 1 ends with Operation Sparrow getting foiled and Michael running away with Nikita with a Black Box in their possession but her relationship with Alex is damaged and she stays at Division under Oversight's supervision.
* ''Series/BurnNotice''
** Season 2: Michael sticks it to Management and loses the Burned Spies Organization's "protection" so his cover is blown and his old enemies will probably be gunning for him. He's also stuck in the middle of the ocean and has to swim back to Miami.
** Season 3: Michael defeats Simon and saves Management but he is captured and sent to a secret prison.
** Season 5: Michael saves a team of spies from getting burned but Fiona turns herself in to the police for the accidental British embassy bombing so she won't be used as leverage against Michael anymore.
** Season 6: Michael gets off the blacklist but his family and friends are disappointed.
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** King Robert in the season 5 Blu-ray lore about the Dance of the Dragons describes how Rhaenyra Targaryen sacrificed her sons to (temporarily) win the Iron Throne. [[spoiler: It's also probably an omen of his wife Cersei doing the same thing in the season 6 finale after she blows up the Great Sept of Baelor using wildfire with all of her political rivals inside it. While this action places her in the Iron Throne, it turns what is left of the country against her. The Reach and Dorne have joined forces with Daenerys and her invading armies. The North and Vale have declared independence under the new King in the North, Jon Snow. With the death of Walder Frey and his two most prominent sons, the Riverlands can't be counted on for support. Even the Westerlands are suspicious since one of the people she killed was her uncle Kevan, the ruler of the Westerlands.]]
** Robert's Rebellion in the backstory, especially for Robert whose main motivation was to rescue his beloved Lyanna Stark from Rhaegar Targaryen. When Lyanna died at the end of the war, Robert was left with the throne instead of the woman he loved.
** By Season 4, House Lannister holds the Iron Throne with their enemies all either broken or retreating. However, their manpower is badly depleted from hard fighting, the Crown is deep in debt to the Iron Bank, their gold mines have dried up and they have been forced to concede a lot of power to the Tyrells, putting them in a very fragile position. The only thing they have going for them is that no one else knows for sure how bad their situation really is. The dire situation becomes unmanageable after the demise of Tywin, the only one able to clean up the mess.
** Daenerys overthrows the regimes in Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen and frees the slaves, but as soon as she is gone the Wise Masters of Yunkai return to slaving and her regime in Astapor is overthrown by a freeman butcher named Cleon.
** In Season 7, Jaime deliberately engineers one. When Dany's forces plan to attack Casterly Rock, he strips it of all its supplies and leaves behind only a token force, sending the bulk of his forces to attack Highgarden and wipe out one of Dany's major allies. At the same time, Euron's fleet destroys the ships that brought them in the first place. This victory nearly destroys Dany's forces.
* ''{{Series/Delete}}'': Daniel tries to tell the AI letting the US destroy technology using EMP blasts from detonating nukes would be this, since it would get left holed up in a few shielded servers. It doesn't care however.
* ''Series/{{Jeopardy}}'': Since consolation prizes were eliminated in 2002, a challenger who beats the champion with a final score of less than $1,000 actually ends up taking home the least money for the day (second place gets $2,000, third gets $1,000, and the champ keeps whatever he/she has already won). However, they do get to come back for another game to try and win more.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Music]]
* The Series/EurovisionSongContest is a RealLife example: the winning country traditionally hosts next year's contest, at high cost.
* [[Music/BlueOysterCult Blue Oyster Cult's]] "Veteran of the Psychic Wars":
-->You see me now a veteran of a thousand psychic wars.\\
My energy is spent at last, and my armor is destroyed.\\
I have used up all my weapons, and I'm helpless and bereaved.\\
Wounds are all I'm made of...\\
Dare you claim that this is victory?
* The [[WesternAnimation/{{Metalocalypse}} Dethklok]] song "Bloodrocuted" tells of an electrician being chased through the woods by bounty hunters because [[CriminalDoppelganger he just so happens to look exactly like a wanted criminal with a large bounty on his head]]. He stumbles upon an electrical substation and manages to kill the bounty hunters by cutting his arms and electrifying a puddle of his own blood for them to step in. [[DidntThinkThisThrough He then realizes that he has no way to patch himself up and will therefore bleed to death very soon]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Myths & Religion]]
* This was, according to medieval myth, the fate of anyone who stabbed a basilisk. Lucian described it thusly: "What though the Moor the Basilisk hath slain, and pinned him lifeless to the sandy plain, up through the spear the subtle venom flies; the hand imbibes it, and the victor dies."
* In the American folk tale/folk song of "Myth/JohnHenry", the eponymous character competes against a machine to prove that a man can drill rock for a railroad tunnel faster than the machine built to replace him. John Henry beats the machine in the race, but collapses and dies afterwards from a heart attack due to overexertion, thus resulting in the machine replacing him anyway.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Pro Wrestling]]
* [[Wrestling/SteveAustin Stone Cold Steve Austin]] defeated Wrestling/OwenHart at Wrestling/{{SummerSlam}} 1997 but not before his opponent dropped him on his head, resulting in a legitimate broken neck and temporary paralysis. Austin would be out of action for months and his wrestling career was shortened by years.
* Wrestling/BrockLesnar was hospitalized after beating Wrestling/KurtAngle for the WWE Championship at [=WrestleMania=] 19 when a botched Shooting Star Press almost broke his neck. Angle was also battling his old neck injury and had to be hospitalized too.
* After the breakup of Special K, The Lovely Lacey [[YouHaveFailedMe dumped]] Izzy and Deranged in favor of managing Wrestling/JimmyJacobs and BJ Whitmer. However they ended up being a less effective TagTeam as Lacey's Angels, mostly due to Lacey's attempts to "improve" Jacobs, which caused Whitmer to turn on him when Jacobs's concern for Lacey led to them losing an Wrestling/{{R|ingOfHonor}}oH Title match to [[Wrestling/AustinAries Generation]] [[Wrestling/RoderickStrong Next]]. Lacey didn't care about Jacobs but felt Whitmer had betrayed her personally and ordered Jacobs to put him out of wrestling. This led to a one sided feud where Whitmer almost killed Jacobs with power bombs on two separate occasions. And when Jacobs finally did manage to give Whitmer an injury Jacobs was so injured himself he required crutches.
* [[Wrestling/{{Paige}} Britani Knight]] wrestled five matches in twenty eight hours, leading up to her defeating Nikki Storm in the tournament finals to become the first champion of Pro Wrestling Eve. Then she came down with glandular fever.
* Wrestling/TheUndertaker suffered one during his Wrestling/WrestleMania 27 match with Wrestling/TripleH. Though Taker won the match, moving his [=WrestleMania=] undefeated streak to 19-0, he was so worn out afterwards that he couldn't even stand up to do his darkness salute. Taker had to be taken out on a stretcher while Wrestling/TripleH, the loser, was at least able to walk to the back under his own power. This would later be the reason for their rematch one year later at [=WrestleMania 28=]. Undertaker wasn't happy with him having to be taken out of the arena on a stretcher.
* Any gruesomely tiring or injurious match can be turned into one of these for the WWE Champion thanks to the introduction of the Money in the Bank briefcase. The briefcase can be cashed it at any time for a WWE Championship match, even if the champion is too worn out to properly defend their title. Notably, this is how the first cash-in went, with Wrestling/{{Edge}} defeating Wrestling/JohnCena in a short match after a bruised and bloody Cena had just defended the title in an Elimination Chamber match.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Radio]]
* AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho in the GrandFinale to the New Eighth Doctor Adventures, [[Recap/BigFinishDoctorWhoNEDAS4E9LucieMiller Lucie Miller]]/[[Recap/BigFinishDoctorWhoNEDAS4E10ToTheDeath To the Death]] has a massive one. Though the Dalek plan to turn Earth into a plague planet is defeated and the Daleks destroyed, [[spoiler:the Doctor's Great-Grandson Alex and companion Lucie die in the process. The Doctor is left utterly [[BreakTheCutie broken]] and departs, deciding he needs to stop being so [[StartOfDarkness merciful]]]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Sports]]
* Can happen in sports if the effort to secure a win leaves players either injured or too exhausted to continue competing successfully. In the 2014 NBA Western Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs decisively in two consecutive home games. The second game of the two was clearly going in the Thunder's favor from early on, and the Spurs had conceded defeat and opted to cut their losses by playing deep bench players with little experience (thereby giving their more experienced players rest for the next game). However, the unexpected tenacity of the Spurs' deep bench forced the Thunder to continue playing their starters for far longer than would normally be expected in a blowout win. As a result, the Thunders' starters were exhausted during the next game and lost by a wide margin -- before ultimately losing the series.
* The LSU Tigers' victory in the 2011 SEC Championship Game eventually turned out to be this. Going in, LSU was the #1 team in the country. At #2 was the Alabama Crimson Tide, who just so happened to play in the same division as the Tigers, who were ranked ahead of them largely by virtue of winning their regular-season matchup. Because of that victory, LSU earned the trip to Atlanta over the Tide and demolished Georgia 42-10. Their prize, aside from the trophy: A rematch with Alabama in the ''national'' championship game, which the Tigers lost in humiliating fashion, 21-0.
* In the 2010 Wimbledon Tennis Championships, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest tennis match by far, clocking over 11 hours. John Isner won the match eventually with 70-68 in the fifth set, which is a CrowningMomentOfAwesome for him, the game of tennis and sports in general. However, Isner had to play the next day again. He was visibly exhausted and required treatment for neck and shoulders. Result: he was [[CurbStompBattle defeated]] in the shortest match of the men's Wimbledon match at that point in 2010.
* The early days of UsefulNotes/{{M|ixedMartialArts}}MA were plagued by Pyrrhic victories.
** The early format of UFC was an eight-man single elimination bracket, where the winner would in theory win three fights in one night. However, the tournament would often be riddled with withdrawals due to fatigue or injuries. UFC 11 ended without a final match because they had run out of competitors who were able to fight.
** Pride, the Japanese equivalent of UFC, had a similar incident at the Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals, also a single elimination tournament. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie, often regarded as one of the greatest fights in MMA history, lasted 90 minutes because Gracie demanded that the fight have unlimited rounds with no rules. Gracie withdrew after the sixth 15-minute round. Sakuraba only made it through one round of his semifinal match before withdrawing due to fatigue. Ironically, in the other semifinal match, Kazuyuki Fujita withdrew two seconds into his semifinal match due to an injury he suffered in his first match of the night.
* Hosting the UsefulNotes/OlympicGames can promote a city's infrastructural and cultural prowess, but it doesn't come cheap. The Summer Olympics in Montreal 1976 and Athens 2004 are particularly infamous examples - Montreal took 30 years to break even, leading its Olympic Stadium aka "The Big O" to being nicknamed "The Big Owe".
* The January 2016 Wild Card Playoff Game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers did end in embarrassing fashion for the Bengals, who surrendered 30 yards of personal foul penalties on one play in the final minute to hand the Steelers the field position for a chip shot field goal to win 18-16. However, few Steelers fans were celebrating, as the source of the first fifteen personal foul yards was a concussion to star wide reciever Antonio Brown, who was ''knocked unconscious'' from an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit from Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict.[[note]]who served a three game suspension the next season for the blatant hit, the most notable in a string of dangerous hits that have come to define his style[[/note]] (the other fifteen came after fellow Bengal Adam "Pac-Man" Jones got into a confrontation with Steelers linebacker coach Joey Porter) Brown wound up being ruled out for the Divisional Round matchup against the Denver Broncos, which combined with a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger (who'd been injured on a hard but legal hit from Burfict earlier in the fourth quarter) and a crippled run game (both star runner Le'Veon Bell[[note]]himself injured in a regular season game after an illegal [[RuleOfThree hit from Burfict]][[/note]] and veteran backup [=DeAngelo=] Williams were already injured, handing run duties to Fitzgerald Toussaint), led to the Steelers losing to the Broncos as their top-ranked defense, free of having to worry about covering Brown, shut down the rest of Pittsburgh's receiving corps as well as what little remained of their run game.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* Happens in ''TabletopGame/VictoryInThePacific'' if you win a battle by mostly "disabling" opposing ships (which sends them back to port and ends their part in the battle, but inflicts no lasting damage) while most of your own losses are sunk and thus out of the game for good.
* ''TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering'':
** The Thran race "won" the Thran-Phyrexian war, but their civilization had been damaged too greatly to recover, and soon collapsed.
** Urza and company then won the second Phyrexian war, but at the cost of the lives of every named character, leaving behind an incredibly powerful artifact which started the next big war on Dominaria, whose conclusion left Dominaria in a state that very nearly ''tore the multiverse to shreds''.
*** This later led to the conflict on Mirrodin, both of which were caused by the phyrexian oil. The first one was won, but at the cost of basically depopulating the plane. The second one didn't go much better.
** Something tells me the Phyrexians were named that way for a reason.
** This flavor text for the card [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=45396 Obliterate]]. Fitting.
--> "The enemy has been destroyed, sir. So have the forest, the city, [[YouCantGoHomeAgain your palace]], [[AndYourLittleDogToo your dog]]..." --Keldon soldier
** Also [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=193467 Near-Death Experience]]:
--> "Lands ravaged, cities in ruins, so many lives sacrificed, and yet there was no other word for it but victory."
** The trope is referenced in name by [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=157397 Pyrrhic Revival]], which revives every players dead creatures in a weakened state, which will likely kill the weaker creatures brought back this way.
--> They found themselves alive again, still bearing their mortal wounds.
* Meet the mission's objectives in a game of ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' and you win, even if doing so cost your Space Marines their Chapter Master and dozens of their greatest warriors. The fluff has even more examples:
** The original Pyrrhic Victory would be the Imperium's triumph over Chaos during the Literature/HorusHeresy. The renegade Warmaster was defeated, but the Emperor was mortally wounded and placed on life support, leaving him incommunicado for the ten thousand years since. His Imperium, founded on humanism and atheistic science, degenerates into a totalitarian theocracy where he is worshiped as a god while the local "engineers" [[MachineWorship worship their tanks]]. Humanity is so weakened by the conflict that civilization has never recovered to its heights at the Imperium's founding. And if the Emperor had been given just a ''little'' more time to perfect his Warp Gate, he could've revolutionized galactic transportation so that it wouldn't rely on [[HyperspaceIsAScaryPlace Warp travel]] and mutant Navigators.
** Earlier than that, the Eldar god of war, Kaela Mensha Khaine, managed to defeat [[TheGrimReaper the Nightbringer]] during the near-mythical War in Heaven, but Khaine was nearly killed and the battle gave all sentient life an intrinsic fear of death (all sentient life [[FearlessFool except the Orks, anyway]]). On the other hand, when Khaine battled Slaanesh during the Fall of the Eldar, even through his defeat he managed to weaken the Chaos God enough for Cegorach to escape and Nurgle to "[[AbductionIsLove rescue]]" Isha.
** Most victories against the [[HordeOfAlienLocusts Tyranids]]. It takes a staggering amount of manpower and war material to stop a Hive Fleet, and there's always another one lurking in the void. The 'Nids even use this on the battlefield, forcing their enemy to waste ammunition on swarms of CannonFodder before launching the attack proper. The more extreme method of using [[EarthShatteringKaboom Exterminatus]] on worlds under Tyranid attack is a ''two-way'' Pyrrhic Victory. The Tyranids lose both the potential bio-mass of the planet they were trying to eat as well as that of the forces spent attacking it, but at the same time the Imperium has just sacrificed one of their finite and ever-shrinking number of planets, while the Tyranids seem endless.
*** Specific examples of this would be the Battle of Macragge [[note]]where the Ultramarines stopped the rampage of Hive Fleet Behemoth at the cost of billions of lives, hundreds of worlds, and the [[LastStand sacrifice]] of the [[BadassArmy elite Ultramarines 1st Company]][[/note]] and the Battle of Iyanden [[note]]where, with the help of Prince Yriel and his Eldritch Raiders, the Eldar were able to overcome Hive Fleet Kraken at the cost of four-fifths of the Craftworld's population, and Prince Yriel had to take up the [[ArtifactOfDoom Spear of Twilight]] which will inevitably slowly kill him[[/note]].
** Eldrad's destruction of Abaddon's Planet Killer broke the back of the Thirteenth Black Crusade, but the Farseer locked himself in eternal conflict with the daemonic spirits controlling the warship and was hurled into the depths of the Warp.
** The Dark Angels defeated The Fallen but their home planet was destroyed.
** On a meta level, world-wide "you determine the result" campaigns fall into this, since having one side flat-out lose would irritate players. So while global campaigns have ended in Imperial (specifically Space Marine) victories, reading deeper reveals that their enemies made off with some powerful artifact or achieved their true objectives. As an example, the Dark Eldar were defeated in the Medusa campaign, but snatched so many slaves that they'll be able to gorge themselves for eons.
** A villainous example with the Fall of Cadia in the new 13th Black Crusade. Abbadon may have FINALLY defeated the defenders of Cadia (including his {{Archenemy}} and [[MemeticMutation tactical genius CRREEEEEEEDDD]]!), resulting in the planet's destruction and Chaos finally breaking through the 10,000-year stalemate to attack the Imperium ''en masse'' once again, but the thing is he wanted to CONQUER the planet, not destroy it. The Cadian Pylons were highly valuable and the entire reason he was attacking the planet in the first place. With it gone, he "won", but lost the reason he had spent so long waging war against Cadia to begin with.
* ''TabletopGame/MageTheAscension'': The Technocracy has all but won the Ascension War... and in the process created a humanity that has no interest in Ascending. This is because they won by, essentially, stamping on humanity's collective capacity for wonder, dreams, and hope, making the world more banal... and because of that overarching feeling of apathy in humanity, [[HoistByHisOwnPetard few humans can muster the wonderment they need to become new mages]], which was the echnocracy's original goal.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Ravenloft}}'', for both heroes and villains. The heroes won't be able to achieve particularly significant things, and it's quite likely they will die in the process of saving a handful; on the Darklords' side of the ledger... well... Count Strahd saved his homeland at the expense of his youth and became immortal at the expense of the life of the woman he loved, to name just one example.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Risk}}'': Throw fifteen troops into an invasion, end up with one left to occupy the territory against the might of the entire enemy continent. Alternatively, destroy a large amount of a enemy but fall just short of actually knocking him out of the game -- then watch him turn in a set of Risk Cards, and come back at your forces which are now spread thin at one-army per territory.
* ''TabletopGame/BloodBowl'': Congratulations, your skaven just beat the enemy orc team 2-1! You won 60,000 gold pieces... And your 80,000 gold piece stormvermin was killed and one of your 70,000 gutter runners got his neck broken, to say nothing of all the linerats they chewed through first. Only another... Five matches until you've replaced your losses.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Necromunda}}'', in a similar vein to Blood Bowl above, can have the winning gang achieve rather hollow victories over the enemy, especially if they suffered a lot of casualties on the playfield. Worse, the losing player may actually roll results on the injury table that are actually ''beneficial'' to their team, so assuming they get some lucky rolls and you get some bad ones, you may end up with a horribly mutilated winning gang with several dead or permanently injured gang members while the defeated gang may end up objectively stronger as a result.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Battletech}}'':
** The Amaris Civil War ends up as one for the SLDF. Even though they won, Kerensky's forces were so savaged as to be almost impotent to keep the Successor States from ultimately carving up the Terran Hegemony (the central state of the Star League) amongst themselves, launching the First Succession War. In the end, Kerensky [[ScrewThisImOuttaHere orders the SLDF to leave the Inner Sphere altogether]], as the Star League he'd sworn to protect and had spent 10 years and countless lives to liberate imploded around him.
** At the conclusion of the Refusal War between Clan Jade Falcon and Clan Wolf, the Falcons ended up winning it in this manner. Three reasons why it led to this outcome: 1) despite the fact that the Falcons managed to wear down the Wolves by sending in less experienced second-line units and then eventually killed off both Natasha and Ulric Kerensky with underhanded ambushes, they unknowingly failed to eliminate Vlad Ward, who eventually became a sole witness to their uncharacteristically cowardly acts and took issue with them later on, 2) after rubbing out most of the Wolves, they tried to eliminate the Wolves' offshoot faction Clan Wolf-In-Exile (which comprised of the original Warden members of their parent Clan) but were fiercely pushed back by Phelan Kell and his Kell Hounds mercenary unit, therefore failing to prevent their escape to the Inner Sphere and 3) after taking a horrendously unacceptable amount of casualties inflicted by the aforementioned factions, the Falcons were rendered completely unable to resume the Invasion of the Inner Sphere so much that they had no choice but to absorb the remaining Wolves who did not break off to join Clan Wolf-In-Exile in order to re-bolster what little manpower they had left. Things took a turn for the worse for the Falcons when Vlad Ward, who had survived the war, witnessed their suspicious strategies and called out their two highest ranked leaders for their acts by initiating his own Trials of Refusal and eventually defeated them both to death; the former in traditional one-on-one [=BattleMech=] combat and the latter getting literally beaten to death in one-on-one hand-to-hand combat on the floor of the Clan Grand Council when the Falcon Khan was just elected ilKhan to resume the invasion despite his old age and his Clan already saddled with the aforementioned casualties. Vlad, now the newly appointed Wolf Khan, then reconstructed the Wolves by turning them into a Crusader Clan that bore no relevant history with the original Warden era and now resets their goal of retaking Terra and conquering the Inner Sphere again all to restore the glory of the Clan and immortalize his own name, once the Truce of Tukayyid expires.
* This is the real heart behind MugglePower in the ''TabletopGame/NewWorldOfDarkness''. Whilst breaking the {{masquerade}} is dangerous for supernaturals on a local level, TheUnmasquedWorld would probably not turn out very well for ''either'' humans or monsters.
** For humans, fighting a full-fledged war against the supernatural is kind of like fighting a war on terrorists turned UpToEleven, since monsters have all the advantages of terrorists, such as being part of the general populace, blending in with "normal people", etc, but add a whole arsenal of supernatural powers to it. But what really makes the war fit this trope is that, after all the damage humanity will do to itself in the process, A: it's not really possible to stop new generations of monsters from coming into being, and B: often, those monsters are keeping something ''even worse'' in check, and so getting rid of them leads to a power vaccuum. Case in point; the [[TabletopGame/WerewolfTheForsaken Uratha]] are scary, being a race of [[OurWerewolvesAreDifferent lupine]] [[VoluntaryShapeshifting shapeshifters]] with SuperStrength, [[ItCanThink human-tier intelligence]] and a HealingFactor powerful enough to make them {{Nigh Invulnerab|ility}}le, especially when they go into their UnstoppableRage. But if humanity somehow wipes out werewolves, then that leads to TheLegionsOfHell who inhabit an animistic DarkWorld now being able to swarm into the mortal world in an epidemic of DemonicPossession, as keeping those evil spirits in check is a werewolf's ''job''. Not to mention the SpiderPeople and RatMan shapeshifting species who ''do'' enjoy eating human flesh will no longer have their top predator around to keep them in check.
** For monsters, not only does humanity outnumber them, but the truth of the matter is that the shape the world is in rather benefits them. All species of monsters ultimately ''need'' humans, for food and procreation, without taking into account personal attachments. To achieve a supernatural victory in a "war of man vs. monster" would require such a massive amount of causalities and planetary devastation that the world wouldn't be much fun for the monsters afterwards, either.
** And, regardless of who may be making progress towards victory, there's still one big problem that makes the fighting meaningless. Namely, the existence of God-tier {{Eldritch Abomination}}s like the [[TabletopGame/DemonTheDescent God-Machine]] and the [[TabletopGame/MageTheAwakening Exarchs]] who actively like the world the way it is and are willing to use all their powers, up to and including [[RealityWarper resetting time and reshuffling space]], to keep things as they prefer.
* Games of TabletopGame/{{Chess}} with players of similar skill inevitably wind up with the winning side having lost most of their pieces. Some historians have argued that in addition to training soldiers about strategization, it was also used to illustrate that WarIsHell due to the sheer loss of manpower on both sides.
* In the ''TabletopGame/{{Eberron}}'' setting, everyone came out of the Last War in bad shape and nobody really got what they wanted in the compromises that ended the War, except for King Kaius of Karrnath who just wanted it all to ''stop''. Karrnath had been savaged by the war, forced to turn to necromancy and pacts with the Lich Queen Vol to survive at all. In return, Vol turned Kaius into a vampire and heavily infiltrated his government and army with her own agents. For Kaius, his "victory" was the mere survival of his people, but aside from the more traditional costs of this trope, it also took his humanity and left him beholden to one of the most powerful and villainous mages in the world.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theater]]
* ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'' manages to avenge his father, but nearly every major character dies as a direct or indirect consequence. {{Lampshade|Hanging}}d when he asks an actor to recite a speech about Pyrrhus, albeit the Homeric Pyrrhus and not the trope namer.
* An Irish play called ''The Field'' has a farmer trying desperately to get a plot of land from the woman who owns it. The reason? He wants to pass on something to his son. Of course, the farmer goes to such awful lengths to get the land (including killing someone), that by the time he finally does get the land, it's worthless to him.
* ''Theatre/{{Wicked}}'': Both Elphaba and Glinda have these. The former has [[spoiler: survived her death sentence, but must pretend to be dead, grievously hurting her best friend, and accept voluntary banishment]]. Glinda, said best friend, has ascended as the effective ruler of Oz, but [[spoiler: at the cost of the lives of her friends and fiancé]].
* In ''The Invisible Hand'', Nick earns his freedom, but the method of earning the ransom money plunged Pakistan into civil war. [[BolivianArmyEnding The sounds of gunfire and bombs draw closer to the building]] before the final FadeToBlack and company bow.
* The Capulets and Montagues at last make peace at the end of ''Theatre/{{Romeo and Juliet}}''. All it takes is the death of Paris, Mercrutio, Tybalt, Lady Montague and of course their two oldest children, Romeo and Juliet. A bitter peace indeed.
* ''Theatre/InheritTheWind'' has Matthew Harrison Brady supporting the state's prohibition on the teaching of evolution by serving as the prosecuting attorney against teacher Bertram Cates. While he technically wins the case, the defense never really denies that Cates broke the law, instead attacking the law itself. Brady is soundly humiliated by his inability to defend the law, and Bertram is only handed a nominal punishment for breaking it. In the end, he has done far more to damage the state's prohibition than defend it. To make things even more blunt,[[spoiler:he promptly has a heart attack]].
* Burr kills ''Theatre/{{Hamilton}}'' but only it's after does he find out the latter didn't want to kill him. He wrecks his political career and goes down in history as a villain while Hamilton becomes a martyr.
* ''Music/JesusChristSuperstar'' ends with him dying for man's sins but a lot of lives were ruined in the process. The existence of God and the resurrection are also never cleared up.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In a lot of strategy games where the enemy has any chance at all of outnumbering your forces, you usually have two options. [[VideoGameCaringPotential Make your troops retreat to a friendly city, or flat out disband]] or [[VideoGameCrueltyPotential use superior tactics on the enemy.]] The second usually results in forcing the enemy into this trope, or in the best of cases, results in you decimating the army at the cost of the majority of your unit. Tends to overlap with WeHaveReserves.
* ''VideoGame/BaldursGate'': in Siege of Dragonspear, the main character ultimately defeats [[spoiler:the crusade and the Avernus, only to convince Irenicus to start his plan, frame him for the murder of Skie, capture his whole party, kill Dynaheir and Khalid and start the plotline of Shadows of Amn]].
* ''{{Videogame/Soma}}'': [[spoiler:Simon manages to launch the ARK, only to discover that his mind and Catherine's weren't uploaded by only copied, just like what happened in Omicron. He shouts "we're gonna die down here!", while insulting Catherine and accusing her of lying; she enrages and calls him an ignorant idiot only to burn his circuits for emotional stress and shut down, thus leaving Simon definitely alone in a sea abyss]].
* ''VideoGame/DynastyWarriors'': In 7 and 8, Shu's historic battle of Wu Zhang Plains. Shu defeats the Wei forces lead by Sima Yi only for Zhuge Liang to pass away. The pyrrhic nature of the victory becomes apparent in the Jin campaign that begins directly after this fight, during which Sima Yi soundly defeats the Shu forces without Zhuge Liang's leadership.
** In 8 Empires, if you keep the enemy forces back from your main base for 5 minutes in a defensive battle, you win. However, if they capture your secondary base within the time limit you get a "Narrow Victory" instead, which causes damage to the region (making it harder to defend next time) and causes some of your officers to be captured. The same can happen in reverse, though if you force the retreat yourself you tend to not lose nearly as much. And this is ignoring random officer death, which is present in both 7 and 8.
* ''VideoGame/YouDontKnowJack'':
** In Vol. 3 the answer for one of the Impossible Questions was 'Pyrrhic victory'. However, if you got it right the game took points off you anyway. Oh how we laughed.
** Episode 9 of the 2011 release had a question about the definition of a "pyrrhic victory", and demonstrates by having Old Man suffer one when he manages to drink a gallon of milk in one hour, but gets a nasty case of diarrhea in the process.
* All four ''VideoGame/MegaManZero'' games end like this for Zero and his group. ''Z1''=[[spoiler:Zero goes missing]], ''Z2''=[[spoiler:the Dark Elf, the one who caused TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt, was free and VideoGame/MegaManX's body destroyed]], ''Z3''=[[spoiler:Neo Arcadia is taken over by the BigBad Dr. Weil]] and ''Z4''=[[spoiler:Neo Arcadia is destroyed, and Zero dead, for the last time]].
* ''VideoGame/MegaManX4'' has this ending for both X and Zero. [[spoiler: Both end up stopping Sigma's plan, but with a cost. Zero loses his true love Iris, who fights him to the death after Zero killed her brother who was with the Mavericks. X stops Sigma, but feels himself possibly going Maverick. He ask Zero to kill him if it happens. Interestingly, the ''Videogame/MegaManZero'' series was originally suppose to be the storyline of [[WhatCouldHaveBeen X going Maverick and becoming the BigBad]], but the backlash from Mega Man fans kept this from happening.]]
* ''VideoGame/DevilSurvivor2''
** The Septentrione Arc has this be the case when it comes to using the Dragon Stream to defeat Mizar. Mizar can [[MesACrowd split-regenerate itself]] indefinitely when attacked and would overrun the rest of Japan within 24 hours, if it's not dealt with. The Dragon Stream would be able to deal with Mizar, but Yamato says that using the Stream would require to cut the power to the towers, which serve as a barrier to Japan and keep it safe. Cutting the power means cutting their own [[YourDaysAreNumbered time]] in defeating the rest of the Septentrione. Io even mentions that their victory against Mizar would be pyrrhic.
** The [[UpdatedRerelease Triangulum]] Arc reveals that the defeat of Arcturus [[spoiler:during the world's second cycle]] ended up pyrrhic. Arcturus may have been defeated at last by Yamato Hotsuin and Al Saiduq, but at the cost of [[spoiler:everyone else being dead, Tokyo being in complete ruins]] and Al Saiduq even mentions that things seem beyond repair. [[spoiler:This is why he concocted a plan with Yamato to regress the world once more, leading to the third cycle of the world and a hopefully better victory against Arcturus]].
* It doesn't matter if you take the "Deal" or "Revenge" path at the end of ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIV'' because either one ends badly for Niko. The "Deal" ending [[DownerEnding is far worse]] than the [[BittersweetEnding "Revenge"]] one.
* If you don't do any of your partners' {{loyalty mission}}s and rush through the game without making preparations, ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' ends with one. The Collectors are no longer a threat to humankind, but Shepard and Shepard's squad die achieving this, and the Reapers are still on the way. Wasting too much time before assaulting the base, on the other hand, can see Shepard too late to rescue the Normandy's crew - maybe thirty or so innocent people and allies.
** ''Videogame/MassEffect3'' had the theme, "There can be no victory without sacrifice." One way or another, every major quest carries a penalty to match its triumph - some nastier than others, especially if Shepard doesn't exercise good judgement. And much like the previous game, going into the final assault without enough preparation can potentially cost you the war, even if you win the battle. [[spoiler:The ending itself proves the Reapers cannot be eliminated as a threat without a heavy price, no matter which option Shepard chooses.]]
** The outcome of the final battle, if you pick Refusal - your forces successfully punched through the Reaper lines and deployed the Crucible, which was the objective... but [[spoiler:because you didn't ''use'' it, even with full readiness and about seven thousand points of effective military strength, you, all of your allies and all space-faring races are exterminated. The Reapers lose, in that extermination is a suboptimal outcome for them, but it's a defeat they're accustomed to suffering.]]
** ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'': if your EMS is under 1750 and you destroyed the Collector Base in ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'', you have only one option allowed, "Destroy", and it will scour the galaxy of almost all life, including Earth.
* In the last GDI mission of ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerTiberiumWars'', choosing to drop the Liquid Tiberium Bomb not only wipes out all of the Nod forces, but all of your own forces and [[DisasterDominoes sets off a chain reaction that kills]] ''[[NiceJobBreakingItHero twenty-five million civilians]]''.
* In ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerTiberianSun'', it's revealed that after ''[[VideoGame/CommandAndConquerTiberianDawn Tiberian Dawn]]'', Tiberium contamination spread to uncontrollable levels and while Nod is pacified, they have developed cyborg technology and several splinter cells are trying to take command. In ''Tiberium Wars'', it's revealed that the cure discovered at the end of ''Tiberian Sun'' was not only ineffective, it caused Tiberium to mutate, becoming even more toxic than before and causing 80% of the world to either be thrown back into the dark ages or become dangerously inhospitable. By ''[[VideoGame/CommandAndConquerTiberianTwilight Tiberian Twilight]]'', Tiberium not only took over the world, but threatens to kill off the entire human race within 6 years. Apparently GDI looses more ground with each game.
* ''VideoGame/{{Infected}}'' has this at the end. You've managed to save New York by wiping out all the zombies! Congratulations! Too bad you only saved a few hundred people, at ''least'' the entire continental United States is still zombified, and there's no word from the rest of the world. But still...New York! Ayyyy!
* The ending of ''VideoGame/RefleX'' is this, but in a much more global scale; [[PlayerCharacter ZODIAC Ophiuchus]] defeats the last ZODIAC and seals away the 12 cores along with its own. [[WhatTheHellHero However, the collateral damage caused during its quest to destroy the other 12 wiped out almost all of humankind,]] [[DownerEnding and it may take centuries or even millenniums for them to regain civilization.]]
* The ending of ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid3SnakeEater'' way more than qualifies as a Pyrrhic Victory for Big Boss.
* ''VideoGame/PrinceOfPersia2008'' ends with [[SealedEvilInACan sealing Ahriman away for a thousand years]]...[[DownerEnding except]] that Elika [[HeroicSacrifice had to return her borrowed lifeforce]] to complete the seal. If the player continues, the victory is so crushing that the Prince ''undoes it to bring her back'' - unleashing the god of darkness once again. Implicit is the idea that he and Elika may hold the key to defeating Ahriman forever (thus making Ahriman's victory the destructive one), but the story has yet to continue.
* The mission results screen for the penultimate mission of ''VideoGame/AceCombat04ShatteredSkies'' notes how victory over the Eruseans came at a very high cost of ISAF casualties, including many aces lost to Stonehenge.
* At least two endings of ''VideoGame/OracleOfTao'' are like this. [[spoiler: The best ending has the whole party teaming up to kill off the BigBad, resulting in another boss, followed by a PlayableEpilogue and a whole bunch of new endings. But if you don't meet all the prerequisites, you get secondary endings (the only one of which is actually good involves the use of a legendary sword). One of these involves the hero sacrificing all her energy and half-destroying the universe to kill it off (and [[InSpiteOfANail STILL might not be enough]], so you need some party members that will survive the event, namely your angel/demon characters) just to end the demon's rampage, and the second involves an exorcist ringing a bell that is deadly to everyone who hears it, taking herself out as well. Either of these losses completely wrecks party morale, and the group splits up thereafter.)]]
* While the effect of the final battle wasn't immediate upon the protagonist of ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'', many players assumed that he was [[spoiler:just sleeping when he closes his eyes in Aigis' lap on the final day of the game. It turns out he actually fell into his last coma and died soon afterward. The sequel, ''Persona 3: FES'', shows us what effect the protagonist's death has upon the rest of the party. The reveal that the protagonist actually sacrificed his life to become the barrier between Nyx and humanity becomes the main point of contention between the entire party, especially for Yukari, who spends most of the game wanting to see him again, to the point where she would be willing to reset time even if it meant dooming the rest of humanity]].
* The [[MultipleEndings bad ending]] of ''VideoGame/Persona4'' where you choose to [[spoiler:kill Namatame. If you didn't kill him, he would have gotten away with it, right? But Nanako is dead, Dojima is left all alone, and your friends have to live with the fact that they killed a man who they weren't even sure was the true culprit. [[DownerEnding Heavy fog continues]] to [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt envelope the world]] as you say goodbye to your friends..]].
* ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsBirthBySleep'' has all characters' endings like this. [[spoiler:Terra loses his body to Master Xehanort but his armor and weapons reform by Terra's force of will and defeat his own body, stopping the current plan. However, Xehanort survives to become the BigBad for the rest of the series, while what's left of Terra is just an empty suit of armor kneeling in the remains of the Keyblade Graveyard and stewing in anger at Xehanort for 11 years. Ventus defeats Vanitas inside his own mind, destroying the X-Blade and stopping the other part of the plan. However the damage to his heart is so severe that he's rendered comatose while his heart seeks safety within Sora's. Aqua finishes off Xehanort's plans for good, except both her friends are gone, she inadvertently sets off the events that would put the first game into motion, and she's stuck wandering the Realm of Darkness alone for years.]] However, unlike most Pyrrhic Victories, there is the hope of Sora saving them all.
** And then ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsDreamDropDistance'' comes along and makes things worse for them: [[spoiler:Xehanort is still in control of Terra's body, over a decade later, and no-one else knows what happened to the rest of him. Vanitas is still around inside Ven's heart, and all that Ven's sacrifice did was teach Xehanort he'd been going about his X-blade plan all wrong. But it still didn't slow his plans down iepressed and with signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, without mentioning that the Earth Kingdom remains in complete chaos after the queen's assassination and with no clear fix on sight]]. And then, [[spoiler: Kuvira, Su's captain, makes a FaceHeelTurn to stop chaos and reunite the country with a lot of Su's people, which gradually corrupts them. She eventually becomes a dictator. Enter the new BigBad]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Chaotic}}'', "Allmagedon", a creature uses an attack to defeat an army of underworlders, at the expense of all he was trying to protect.
* In ''WesternAnimation/DuckDodgersInTheTwentyFourthAndAHalfCentury'', Duck Dodgers and Marvin the Martian are fighting over Planet X. They both finally deploy [[DoomsdayDevice doomsday weapons]], blowing the planet up and leaving a chunk so small that it literally isn't big enough for the both of them. At this point, Dodgers shoves Marvin off the planet and starts gloating about his victory, while the camera pans down to reveal the Space Cadet is hanging on to a few roots, saying "Big Deal".
* In a season 3 episode of ''WesternAnimation/CodeLyoko'', Aelita willing makes a Pyrrhic Victory at the end of "Sabotage". X.A.N.A damages the Supercomputer and puts a mass of guards on the tower, so Jeremie needs the active tower offline so he can reboot the Supercomputer but Aelita can't get past the guards to use the Code Lyoko -- so she willingly uses Code X.A.N.A. code to delete the Ice Sector, allowing Jeremie to reboot the system and stopping the active tower.
* Cartman has one of his victories [[CerebusRetcon become pyrrhic]] in the ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' episode "201" when [[spoiler:Scott Tenorman]] reveals that [[spoiler:his father and Cartman's were one and the same]], meaning Cartman [[spoiler:killed his own father along with Scott Tenorman's mother when he fed them to him as chili for revenge]] in "Scott Tenorman Must Die" nine seasons prior. Cartman however is more upset that [[spoiler: this technically makes him ginger rather than the fact that he killed his own father]].
* The WesternAnimation/DonaldDuck/WesternAnimation/ChipAndDale short "Up a Tree" features Chip and Dale destroying Donald's house. Only thing? The object they used to destroy it with was their own chopped up tree which he managed to successfully chop down. [[FridgeLogic Despite the fact that the short ends with the two laughing as always]], [[TheBadGuyWins still manages to succeed in his goal of getting rid of it]] (making it [[MeaninglessVillainVictory Pyrrhic]] for him as well), [[FridgeHorror which means they've lost their home ''and'' likely any food they've gathered up in it]].
* Numbuh 363 from ''WesternAnimation/CodenameKidsNextDoor'' caused one in "[[GrandFinale Operation I.N.T.E.R.V.I.E.W.S.]]". He brags throughout the episode and hates being touched. He also refuses to help Sector V when Count Spankulot spanks them. Finally, when Numbuh 1 saves his life from Father and he is waken up with Father's Pipe, all he can say is "I WIN! I GOT THE PIPE!". His own sector is appalled by this that they betray him and gag him and give Sector V all of their stuff.
* As mentioned to Shayera Hol in the ''[[WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague Justice League Unlimited]]'' episode "Hunter's Moon", because she had stopped her people from trying to destroy Earth just so they could create a shortcut to the Gordonian home world and win the war, her former lover and commander Hro Talak ended up sacrificing himself against the Gordonians which resulted in a great loss for the Thanagarians.
* ''WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes''
** WesternAnimation/BugsBunny finally beats Cecil Turtle in "Rabbit Transit", only to be arrested by the police because he was speeding 100 miles in a 30 mile speed limit zone in order to win. There have been no more Bugs-Cecil cartoons, apparently because Bugs was satisfied with actually winning for once, pyrrhic victory or not.
** Invoked in a cartoon featuring WesternAnimation/FoghornLeghorn. Foghorn had been trying to shake off [[AbhorrentAdmirer Miss Prissy]], so she teamed up with the Barnyard Dog. He put on a chicken costume and pretended to be another suitor attempting to woo her. Foghorn got jealous and he and Barnyard Dog got into a fight. After winning the fight, Foghorn grabbed Missy Prissy and rushed off to a chapel to get married. Afterwards, he triumphantly declares "I WON!" It's that moment that he realizes what he just did and then says, "I wonder if there's any way I could have lost."
* Subverted in ''WesternAnimation/ThunderCats2011'', with Grune and Panthro. Grune coins the line "No price is too great for the defeat of my foe" when he rips out his own fang to slay a giant spider. Panthro repeats it when he lets his arms get cut off to ensure Grune's death.
-->'''Panthro''': ''Looking down at his severed arms'' "WorthIt".
* In the second episode of ''WesterAnimation/StaticShock'', Virgil feels this is the case even though he defeated Alva and Hotstreak because the evidence proving Alva was complicit in the Big Bang was destroyed. He even compares it to the {{Trope Namer|s}}.
* A few episodes of ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom'' end like this, most notably "Public Enemies" where even though Danny manages to beat back Walker's forces, Walker manages to succeed in his plan to make Danny a HeroWithBadPublicity. True, Danny managed to turn it around eventually, although it did stick for awhile.
* An infamous ''WesternAnimation/AmericanDad'' episode was about Stan having a mental breakdown after he was repeatedly bested by a car salesman who kept selling him expensive cars at inflated prices instead of the sensible one at half. Since he couldn't provide for his family, Francine has to work three jobs to stay afloat and Hailey resorts to prostitution. The salesman eventually sold Stan the car out of pity, only to realize Stan only pretended to be mad. The episode ended with Stan gloating in his new car, not caring about the damage he has done to his family just so he can "win".
* In ''WesternAnimation/TotalDramaPresentsTheRidonculousRace'' the reward for coming in first in challenges is getting to have a head start in the next challenge. However, eight times out of ten something will happen that causes the winning teams to have share their ride to the next location with the rest of the teams or even causes them fall behind the others.
* In the "Uh-Oh Dynamo" episode of ''WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls'', Professor Utonium threatens to ground the Girls if they don't use his Dynamo invention to stop the Giant Fish Balloon Monster; they reluctantly obey him, destroying the Giant Fish Balloon Monster and damaging most of Townsville in the process.
* In the ''Creator/RabbitEarsProductions'' version of ''Paul Bunyan,'' Paul Bunyan was able to successfully chop down all the trees in the forest for the settlers to make their homes at. But then Paul Bunyan becomes upset once he realizes that this would cost many people to not know the wonders of having trees around since they were all cut down. So in the end, Paul Bunyan decided to plant trees across the country to make up for him chopping down all those trees.
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/DextersLaboratory'' ends with him finally beating Dee Dee in a round of ''extreme'' party games, but Computer points out he destroyed the lab in the process. He ignores this and orders her to make him a sandwich. [[LiteralGenie He gets turned into an actual sandwich]].
* ''WesternAnimation/RockosModernLife'' has the episode "Pranksters" where Filburt was so happy he finally pranked Heffer [[spoiler:that he has a ''heart attack'']].
* ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'' has the ending of "Jail Break". Steven and the rest of the Crystal Gems are free, and the Homeworld warship has been destroyed, but [[spoiler: Lapis is stuck at the bottom of the ocean, fighting for control over an unstable fusion with Jasper, and Peridot is nowhere to be found.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Kaeloo}}'':
** In Episode 54, [[BornUnlucky Stumpy]] and [[TheAce Quack Quack]] enter a horse race. [[spoiler: [[CatsAreMean Mr. Cat]], who bet on Stumpy winning, manages to rig the course so Stumpy wins. Stumpy is happy until he remembers that he bet every last cent of his money on Quack Quack winning, since Quack Quack usually wins everything, and is now competely broke.]]
** Episode 58 (the one where Mr. Cat goes on a rigged game show hosted by [[BitchInSheepsClothing Kaeloo]] to prove that he's right about everything) had one. [[spoiler:Kaeloo asks Mr. Cat what [[CrapsaccharineWorld Smileyland]]'s most important rule is, and he says that it's "Have fun". This ''is'' the correct answer, but Kaeloo, Stumpy and Quack Quack's idea of " having fun" turns out to be strapping Mr. Cat to a board and tormenting him.]]
** In Episode 85, Kaeloo and Mr. Cat have a debate over [[ItMakesSenseInContext whether Kaeloo should beat people up or not]]. [[spoiler: Mr. Cat wins the debate [[FoodAsBribe (by bribing Quack Quack, who was the judge, with yogurt)]], but since his argument was that Kaeloo ''should'' beat people up, she beats him up horribly.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/CampLazlo'' has the episode "Racing Slicks", where [[{{Jerkass}} Edward]] wins a go-kart race only to find that his trophy is the smallest one given out and the other racers all got larger trophies as a consolation. When he sees that [[ThoseTwoGuys the Dung Beetles]] got a trophy larger than they are for coming in last place, he angrily throws his trophy on the ground and stomps on it.
* The businessman who screwed Riddler out of millions in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' manages to escape justice and prosecution. While the man gets away, its shown that he'll spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.
--->'''''Batman''': "How much is a good nights sleep worth? Now theres a riddle."''
[[/folder]]
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