Many people consider the term/meme "Fail" (and by extension, "Epic Fail") to have been popularized by the game Blazing Star. If you failed to beat a boss in time, the Engrish words "You fail it! Your skill is not enough, see you next time, bye-bye!" appeared on screen, showing you how much you sucked at fighting the boss.
Sometimes when fighting the Ice Climbers, killing Popo but leaving Nana alive results in Nana smashing you off the stage by herself. Especially funny when it happens on the last stock, netting Ice Climbers the victory.
In the Wii version of Quantum of Solace, it is all too possible, should you forget how to throw a grenade, to essentially pull the pin out of said grenade and stick it in your pocket. Not even kidding here.
It's not unusual for a beginning knight to die on their very first action:
Salutations Lancealot, welcome to NetHack! You are a lawful male human Knight. # ride You slip while trying to get on the saddled pony. —More— You die... Do Not Pass Go. Do not collect 200zorkmids.—More— Lancealot, slipped while mounting a saddled pony.
Speedrunner ais523 demonstrated that it's possible to die before taking one's first turn if the Random Number God is hostile enough. Grayswandir was generated on the upstairs, he picked it up due to autopickup, and it blasted him. He estimated the chance of this occurring at roughly one in three million.
Annoying trainers in Pokémon Gold and Silver (and the remakes) will call you every once in a while...and some call to say that they failed to catch a Pidgey. Yes, a Pidgey. You have about a 33% chance of catching Pidgey that's at full strength with no status conditions and a plain old Poké Ball, yet they were trying and couldn't catch it!
"Hitmonlee used Hi Jump Kick! Hitmonlee kept going and crashed! Hitmonlee fainted!"note Hi Jump Kick has a 10% chance of missing, and when it does it takes off half of the user's max HP. Using this move can easily result in knocking your own Pokemon out. The move used to give back half the damage it would have inflicted on the target, so failing to hit a target with a large pool of HP or low defense, like a Blissey, would definitely have killed the user.
"Foe Geodude used Selfdestruct! It doesn't affect Gengar... Geodude fainted!"note Selfdestruct is a move that deals massive damage to the opponent(s), but also knocks out the user. As a Normal-type move, it does not affect Ghost-types such as Gengar. Similarly embarrassing is using Selfdestruct against an opponent using Dig, Fly, or Dive - moves which make the user (mostly) invulnerable for one turn).
"Deoxys is confused! It hurt itself in its confusion! Deoxys fainted!"note Confusion is a status condition in which a Pokemon may attack itself with a 30 base power typeless attack. Some Pokemon, such as Deoxys' Attack Forme, are such that they effectively commit suicide when confused.
"Shedinja used Final Gambit!"note Final Gambit sacrifices the user to deal damage equal to the user's current HP. Shedinja is a One-Hit-Point Wonder, in a game where literally every other Pokémon can achieve over 100 HP (and many of them get well over 200) if its level is high enough.
For the fans, this is actually how you succeed - since there's no actual victory in DF, the easiest win condition is to achieve a catastrophic failure that is notable in some entertaining way, then post it on the Bay 12 forums.
The current TV Tropes succession game, Waterburned, has two examples within the first two years - creating a drowning trap that flooded half the fortress thanks to a misplaced channel, and having the military boldly sally out to a humiliating defeat—by kobolds.
Dragon Age: Origins, toward the end of the Orzammar plot arc, has the losing candidate for King attempt a coup right there in the meeting chamber with all the guards and the heroes who just got through carving up a thousand Dark Spawn. Needless to say, it doesn't go well for them. Listen to the town crier afterward. He'll shout out about what happened and throw in his usual color commentary which goes like this, quoted word for word:
Town Crier: Harrowmont is king! Bhelen is stupid and dead! EPIC FAIL!
While that is the biggest example of Epic Fail; if the other candidate is chosen and he chooses to order the execution of his rival. The Town crier then adds Epic Fail, but it's not quite as epic.
In Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, you manage to so utterly and completely prove a man to be the real murderer that Miles Edgeworth, the last person you'd expect to hear it from, says to him "I believe the correct term is 'you fail'!"
Kirby Super Star: When Kirby gets Bomb ability, he immediately pulls one out. Forget to throw it immediately? Boom.
Special mention must go to PR Punk Skater, who was apparently headshot by God in volume 34.
Similarly, GameFails charts epic fails from all over the gaming world.
In the Portal universe, it is revealed that the attempts of the Aperture Science researchers to put Restraining Bolts on their AIMaster Computer GLaDOS approaches the level of this trope. When they first attempted to wake her up, she went homicidallyberserk within 1/14 of a picosecond. Their solution to this was to attach all sorts of personality cores to her to modify her behavior, including one that fed her a cake recipe; another that was, if anything, even more murderous than she was; and one that fed her stupid ideas to counter her intelligence. Yet after all this, they were easily suckered into giving her access to a deadly neurotoxin, with which she killed them. Their epic failure comes full circle when the aforementioned "Intelligence Dampening Sphere" ends up taking over the Enrichment Center from GLaDOS and nearly destroying it, thanks to the same built-in imperatives designed to control her.
It's best to say that Aperture Science only succeeds through epic failure. The portal gun was originally intended as a shower curtain. The acceleration and repulsion gels were intended as dietary aids, and some supplementary materials indicate that GLaDOS was originally intended to de-ice fuel lines. Nothing Aperture Science ever built functioned as intended, and they were too poorly managed to turn lemons into lemonade with what they did have.
They instead took the lemons and turned them into incendiary grenades.
In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, when dueling Bandit Keith, he can and will tribute three monsters to summon the Winged Dragon of Ra... in Sphere Mode. A Divine Monster with 0 Attack and Defense. (Even worse, a Divine Monster cannot defeat any other monster using the Attribute advantage house rules, making it completely worthless. This is even funnier if beforehand, his monsters had been defeating you.)
Parodied in Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan: at one time when Guybrush guesses the answer to one of De Cava's three-out-of-six questions wrong, Morgan rolls her eyes and says, "Fail," in a Shout-Out to the "FAIL" meme. (Even De Cava says "Failure!" when the question is guessed wrong.) However, this trope (and imminent death) is averted as many times as possible, when De Cava will always repeat the same first series of the three questions thanks to the repeated pleadings from Guybrush.
In the Last Story of Sonic Adventure, when Perfect Chaos starts rampaging, Dr. Eggman flies in with his Egg Carrier 2, a new version of the huge ship he piloted for most of the game. Eggman made it specifically for if Chaos went out of control like he was doing at that moment. Chaos took it down in one blast.
After defeating the boss of Chemical Plant Zone, it's very possible for a player who has let their guard down to fall through one of the tiles.
Gilgamesh'sEX Burst in Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. Every character's EX Burst has a perfect and failed version, with the failed version doing less damage, but Gilgamesh takes failure to its extreme. A recurring joke in the series is Gilgamesh's continued search for the legendary Excalibur, but he always confuses it with the counterfeit Excalipoor, which only ever deals 1 point of damage when it hits the opponent. In his EX Burst, the player must pick the Excalibur out from several Excalipoors. If they fail, Gilgamesh takes up one of the Excalipoors and performs a series of epic, over-the-top attacks on them...then realizes his attacks aren't doing anything and throws it away, moaning that he picked the wrong one.
Of course, thanks to a bug in the original Excalipoor, it did as much damage as the Excalibur when thrown. So when Gilgamesh's opponent is inevitably hit by the sword that Gilgamesh threw away, it hits For Massive Damage.
It's also possible to total party wipe in Mann vs. Machine mode, at which point the Administrator is also most displeased.
The Administrator: "Do not all die at once!"
In the Replay Update of Team Fortress 2, a contest called the Saxxy Awards was created to share with people their most awesome kills, biggest dominations, and of course, most epic fails. All the lovely fails can be found here.
The winner was a Soldier who wanted to show off and destroy an enemy dispenser using a taunt kill, but the Engineer moves the dispenser before he can finish the taunt. What makes this an Epic Fail is that said taunt kills the Soldier as well as whoever's standing by, and unfortunately, no one's standing by. You can probably guess what happened.
Rune Factory 3: Failing to cook a dish that you have a 90% success rate for will result in a Super Fail. The game plays with the trope in that not only are Super Fails a favored gift for Sofia (one of your potential brides) but they're a powerful poison, that can take chunks of life off even bosses.
In the Total War games, when an assassin, spy, gentleman, or ninja fails in a mission, the video of their attempt shows them attempting and then failing in some hilarious fashion. Sometimes it's an amusing or unfortunate error, like stabbing the shadow of a kneeling samurai but just hitting his armor stand, or getting caught trying to set a house on fire. Other times, the failure will be something hilariously epic. For example, a ninja making a running leap at a target's back to kick him over a railing, only to miss and fall to his death. Or a gentleman engaging in a duel, but his weapon misfires, and while investigating the faulty pistol, he ends up shooting himself in the face. Or an assassin waiting behind a door to stab a target, only to end up stabbing himself when the target slams the door into his face.
In Batman: Arkham City, the Joker is severely wounded from losing the boss fight of Batman: Arkham Asylum. So he and Harley Quinn escape custody to avoid a transfer to the new prison, but in the ensuing chase they wind up breaking in to Arkham City by accident.
Brain Dead 13 has this in Vivi's Salon. During the scene in which Fritz escapes from the spiked coffin, he puts on a spiked arm with a switch, but just as Fritz was charging at Lance, he trips over a skull.
Star Wars Battlefront: the game tracks Nemesis, for who killed you the most, and Bait, for who you killed the most. Also, there is no Friendly Fireproof here, meaning that you can occasionally kill yourself with a bad grenade toss. The awesome failure comes when a unit is listed as its own Nemesis and Bait. Meaning he committed grenade-related suicide more often than he killed anyone else.
Posted on the old WoW forums in a 'what was your most epic death' thread:
I am a warlock. I am undead. I drowned. note Warlocks have a water breathing spell, and at the time, Forsaken (undead) characters had a breath meter three times longer than anyone else.
Red Faction Guerilla is a game where Wreaking Havok and Everything Breaks is par for the course. Protagonist Alec Mason is Made of Iron and is a One-Man Army when it comes to Stuff Blowing Up and Dropping the Hammer. This is a person who is expected to walk into an enemy installation and come out the other side effectively having traversed a straight line. However, as noted by Yahtzee, it is possible to kill yourself by chopping away at a building's supports, with the very last sliver of plumbing holding out far longer than is proper, and having the stupid thing drop on you. It is possible for Alec Mason to kill himself with a hollow dome house this way, when three dozen infantry squads and their vehicles are so much hammer fodder.
FTL: Faster Than Light allows you to fail the tutorial. Under normal circumstances this is impossible, as the demonstration enemy can't hurt you unless you turn off your shields. Other means of utter failure include opening all doors on the ship, including airlocks, or shutting off oxygen, asphyxiating the crew either way. All three of these actions are at no point necessary to complete the tutorial. Regardless of your method of suicide, the game gives you a Non-Standard Game Over, pictured above.
It's also very possible due to the procedural generated enemy, to die on the very first jump if you get unlucky.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has killcams, where landing a killing blow on an enemy can lead to a Coup de Grâce Cutscene with a special Finishing Move. Originally, these only occurred if you were fighting in melee, but a patch introduced killcams (sans finisher) for ranged and magical attacks. Killcams are triggered when the attack you just let out will kill the enemy you're engaging with. Sounds good so far. However, it doesn't take into account whether or not your attack will actually hit. This isn't a huge deal for melee finishers, since they're guaranteed to hit, but for ranged attacks, it's entirely possible for your opponent to move after the cutscene is triggered. If that happens, you're treated with a slow-mo view of your arrow/projectile wooshing past your opponent's head and hitting a wall.
Similarly, in Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas, when going into VATS mode you're given a chance to hit a target from range. You then open fire, and are treated to a cinematic view of your shots being fired. But if you're standing, say, just behind a boulder and your rifle ends up pointing at the boulder when you execute your VATS attack, you'll be treated to the sight of every single bullet you shot skipping off the rock right in front of you. Can get particularly hilarious if the enemy is standing behind some thin piece of cover like a signpost when you execute you 95% chance-to-hit shot, resulting in sending a hundred bullets downrange from your minigun, and every single shot hits the sign instead of the person standing just behind it. Or if a bystander or companion is between you and the target. Even worse is when you throw a Nuka Grenade in VATS Mode only for it to strike an overhead obstruction and bounce back to land at your feet- VATS Mode won't enduntil the grenade explodes.
Two of EVE Online's greatest battles, the Battle of Asakai and the Battle of B-R5RB, were caused by incredible blunders - Asakai's because the person pushed the wrong button, warping his Titan into a battlefield and B-R5RB when a player forgot to pay the rent to his coalition's fortification, and it went up for grabs.
Touhou Koumakyou: Embodiment of Scarlet Devil has Cirno's "Icicle Fall" spellcard on Easy, which has a blatant blind spot directly in front of her. Even the Stage 1 boss, Rumia, doesn't bear the same kind of stupidity.
Total War Shogun 2 has a failure animation for a Ninja assassination. Ninja sneaks inside a castle perched high up on a cliff. Ninja finds target looking out over a balcony over said cliff. Ninja takes a run up to attempt a flying kick at the target's head to force him over the balcony. Target ducks.
Mass Effect 1: You would think missing at point-blank range with a shotgun would be hard. You would be reckoning without any of your allies who don't naturally have a shotgun specialisation.
In Mario Kart, Blue Shells target the current race leader. If you use a Blue Shell in first place, you will hit yourself.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate introduces Hunters for Hire, in which you can hire 1-4 CPU-controlled versions of hunters you've met (e.g. via StreetPass) to do a quest for you, with varying odds of success. Occasionally, hired hunters will fail quests that should be trivial given their equipment, Hunter Rank, and party size, such as failing a simple "Hunt a Great Jaggi" quest (one hunter apparently hired a team of G-Rank hunters to do this, which failed anyway) or, even worse, failing a low-rank quest in which the objective is to deliver items that can be easily gathered.
This is half the fun of Kerbal Space Program. Nothing says "epic fail" as watching your rocket's thrusters become deadly missiles as they separate from your rocket or, even worse, slam into your cockpit. And then an update made the Space Center buildings themselves, meaning a rapid unplanned disassembly can now result in a surviving kerbal standing forlornly in the smoldering ruins.
Star Trek Online has its "Duty Officer System", which allows you to send Red Shirts to do boring jobs around the ship and elsewhere. It's not uncommon to see them come back injured or killed, though you have to question their competence when they get injured doing something harmless like scanning particles. It's probably why one of the options for the Klingon characters is listed as "Execute Officers for Incompetence".
In Paper Mario, there's one moment in particular that is pretty pathetic and humorous. When Mario and his friends are in the Ice Palace, Mario encounters Duplighosts, which imitate Mario and whichever member he has out. It's pretty clear which the fake is, but the most obvious moment is when multiple Duplighosts take on the wrong personages at the same time. For some reason, they are unaware of their own stupidity, especially since they were capable of doing this successful last time.
In Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune, if you're playing Story Mode or Versus Mode your opponent is less than 700 meters from the goal and is so far ahead of you, the "Keep Going!" alert that shows up at this point doesn't even show up. In other words, you've screwed up so badly that the game implicity tells you that you should just give up all hope of winning.note This doesn't apply in Ghost Battle mode; when your opponent crosses the finish line, the race will continue and the game will encourage you to "Run to the very end!" so you can record your ghost data; unlike in other modes, Ghost Battle only ends when you cross the finish line or time out (which you'd have to try to do, as the timer is extremely lenient).
In Pokemon Art Academy, every single one of your rival's drawings is this. He improves as time goes on, but only marginally.