Princess Amelia from the series Slayers is the only major protagonist who does not use a bladed weapon of any kind in battle, preferring to use physical attacks. She even invented her own Astral magic attack to fit into her fighting style. Her history reveals why she refuses to wield a weapon: witnessing her mother's assassination traumatized her to the point that wielding a weapon, as shown in the final episode of Slayers TRY, makes her uneasy.
Virtually all ninja from the series Naruto are trained in unarmed combat, but there are characters that are specialists.
Might Guy and his pupil Rock Lee utilize a style that emphasizes incredible speed and power and neither character uses other techniques (Rock Lee being literally unable to), and they don't often use weapons, either.
Actually, we already carry various weapons on us at all times. That’s why there’s no point in carrying other ones. A student who gets in a fight on his way to school can use his backpack… you can use a fan you just happen to have in your pocket… in a pinch, maybe a belt too… your shoes are also ok…at the most, is acceptable to use a knife in your attacker hands. Those are all the thing you might end up using. But nothing else is allowed! Even a pencil… or a fistful of sand… as soon as you arm yourself in preparation for a fight, you’re tipping the scales! And tossing away your pride in the process!
Half a minute after that, he cuts a 4-micres wire with the side of his hand to save two of his students from being sliced with it. Just to make his opinion stand.
There are several unarmed melee users in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, but the best example here is probably Lieze Lotte, Chrono's close combat teacher. As shown during her stint as one of the masked men in A's, she fights using unarmed combat exclusively, never using offensive spells even once.
Minai from Shikabane Hime fights Shikabane using hand-to-hand combat and spiked gauntlets, unlike her fellow Shikabane Hime who all use guns, swords or other weapons.
Zenkichi Hitoyoshi of Medaka Box primarily relies on his Savate fighting style to handle foes dues to his aversion to weapons. This doesn't preclude making the opponent's weapon backfire on them however.
Sanji from One Piece is the only member of the Straw Hat Pirates who doesn't use any weapons or Devil Fruit powers. Hell, he doesn't even use his hands, he only uses his legs and feet so when he's fighting he doesn't risk injuring his hands, a chef needs his hands to cook after all.
In Gamaran there are two school of martial arts focused on unarmed fighting: the first is the Kyosen School of the Daimaru clan, which is focused on attacks aimed at severely damaging inner organs with only one blow. However, as the sword-wielding protagonist points out, if their attacks don't connect, they're done for. Much later we see the much more formidable Kiyomori Yamanoue of the Genkon School, nicknamed "Lord of the Doom Fist" and capable of paralyzing peoples with his fingers by hitting the nerves and even rip the heart out of his opponents barehanded.
In ''Bleach, we have Yoruichi Shihouin whose zanpakuto was only shown in a flashback. She always fights without weapons, though, in the Deicide arc, she has to wear armor for her arms and legs, so she wouldn't end up hurt when she hits Aizen. And despite that Sui-Feng has basically the same fighting style, she relies more in her zanpakuto than Yoruichi does.
Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez is this most of the time. He never drew his zanpakuto during the first fight against Ichigo until the end when Tosen interrupted him. In the second battle against Ichigo and later Shinji, Grimmjow was forced to drew his zanpakuto because he lost his left arm and was heavily handicapped. And when he unleashed his Resurreccción in the third battle, Grimmjow uses only his body as his weapon, except the projectiles in his elbows which he only used once.
Yammy Llargo. The first time he drew his zanoakuto was when Ichigo cut off his arm during the first battle, but Yammy pulled it back to the sheath when he saw that Ichigo was distracted. The second time was when he released his Resurrección, tranforming into a Kaiju without any weapons.
More traditionally at Marvel, there's Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, and Iron Fist. In fact, there was once a Moon Knight special where he teamed up with Shang-Chi. When preparing to go into battle, Moon Knight had his typical gadgets but Shang was notably empty handed. Moon Knight asked if he had any weapons and the martial artist replied that, while he had mastered various weapons in the past, he simply did not need them.
Wildcat from The DCU uses no weapons and was a Badass Normal until a Retcon slowed his aging. He's just a champion boxer who fights crime in a cat mask.
Tibetan Chinese Wong, descendant of a long line of holy servants to the Sorcerer Supreme, can kick righteous ass when called for. He also serves as a sparring partner and instructor for his master, Doctor Strange.
Strange: Yes, in some respects, [Wong] is my servant... but in others, Wong is my master.
In Fallout: Equestria, the Zebra fighter and companion Xenith is a master of "Fallen Caesar Style". Combined with her skill in stealth and ability to use Zebra alchemical brews in unexpected ways in combat (such as running along ceilings); she can engage armed and armored foes with no more than her hooves. She does, however, don a clawed helmet when it's argued her skills won't be as effective against magically shielded foes.
The History Monks of Discworld, at least the ones not outfitted by Qu.
"Are you any good with weapons?" asked Susan. - "No," said Lobsang, proudly. - "Then try to stay out of the way." - "I mean I've been trained to fight without..."
The Bloodguard from the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series disdain the use of weapons, believing that they will eventually betray their wielder. When a group of badass hunters display their ability to use garrotes to ensnare and kill their quarry, a Bloodguard examines one of their cords and dismissively snaps it.
Parker is perfectly willing to use guns, knives, clubs and booby trapped amusement parks as weapons, but he prefers to work with his hands.
Stegman: I don't see no gun on you. I don't see no weapon!
The Martial Arts powerset exemplifies the superhero version of this trope, and is a favourite for Natural origin characters. Super Strength is similar, except it has a ranged attack where you rip up a chunk of the ground and throw it.
More recently added was "Street Fighting", which contains quite a few more circular motions than more realistic fighting styles, but has a very Mixed Martial Arts look and can be brutal when taking out groups of weaker foes.
The Monk Class in Dungeon Fighter Online sheds his weapon in the battlefield (by implanting it into the ground for myriad bonuses), then goes on to use those fistcuffs. Doing so gives the Monk unparalleled speed and juggling capability, and makes the class quite popular. However, one can still break their equipped weapon after shedding it like any other class.
Also the more traditional Fighter class and its different classes minus the "Brawler" class tree.
One optional skill in Kingdom of Loathing is Kung Fu Hustler. With it, when you fight without a weapon or offhand item, you periodically gain intrinsic buffs. First you get bonus damage equal to three times your level, then 50% additional combat initiatve, spooky damage equal to three times your level, and bonus item drops. If you adventure with a weapon, you lose them all instantly. You also get new barehanded hit and miss messages. There's also an optionalchallenge path called Way of the Surprising Fist, which restricts the use of weapons or off-hand items and severely reduces meat drops, but allows the player to learn path-specific skills.
The Monk class of Ragnarok Online are Catholic Shaolin Monks. The Taekwon class fight with just their feet.
World of Warcraft's fourth expansion Mists of Pandaria introduces the monk as the game's 11th (and 10th base) class. Although monks equip weapons, it's only for the status they give, since most of their attacks rely on unarmed maneuvers. The only exception of Jab, where the use of the weapon is purely cosmetic. And even then, there is a glyph that makes jab to be always unarmed.
The Monk class of Dungeons & Dragons Online follows a version of the D&D pen-and-paper game rules. Depending on the build, it averts the Can't Catch Up trope with self-healing, Elemental Powers and Ki Attacks and evasive gymnastics to avoid damage that leave other melee classes sometimes lacking, right up to endgame and beyond.
Monks (and their EvilCounterparts Bruisers) in Everquest II are very effective without weapons, though they can still wield basic weapons such as brass knuckles and kendo sticks.
In editions 3.0 and 3.5, monks are generally expected to fight with no weapons or armor, but receive a great many bonuses and abilities to make them competitive. Their unarmed attacks increase in damage and they gain a number of magical abilities, such as teleporting short distances, healing themselves and gaining immunity to various effects. They can use various Eastern weapons while maintaining certain bonuses.
The swordsage class can trade away its ability to use light armor in exchange for the monk class's increased unarmed damage, turning them into a Bare-Fisted Monk.
The 4e monk is a bit odd in by and large treating any weapons he is proficient with as implements. Thus, when using any of his special monk attack powers, the attack roll, base damage, and other effects are set by the discipline used regardless of whether it's executed barehanded or with, say, a dagger or spear. A magical weapon still grants its specifically magical bonuses when used this way—but since monks also get access to ki focus implements, which for game purposes leave the hands free and provide the same enhancement bonuses and their own special effects, such a weapon is never strictly needed just to remain competitive.
In d20 Modern, there is an advanced class called Martial Artist. It is the most effective class for kicking ass unarmed, though it's also good for spamminggrenades.
The entire point of the Exalted shard Burn Legend. Guns Are Useless. Weapons are betrayals of a warrior's spirit. You fight bare-handed or not at all.
In Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, the penultimate boss is Balthazar, a Bhaalspawn monk and one of only three enemies in the game to be immune to Time Stop.
Interestingly, said immunity is implemented differently for Balthazar than for the other two, in a way that actually allows bypassing it in the right circumstances and implies it might have something to do with his monk abilities and not just him being a Bhaalspawn. It is an automatic counter-move done in response to Time Stop being cast. As such, if Balthazar is kept from acting, he will not be immune.
Monks in NetHack take massive accuracy penalties if they wear body armor, and can only advance in a handful of weapon skills. They even take an alignment hit for eating non-vegetarian food, though it's a slap on the wrist past the first minute of the game, given that you can get gobs of alignment just by all the kills you'll need to be doing anyway. However, they learn a wide variety of intrinsics (special abilities), can learn magic to a surprising degree, and, of course, can build their martial arts abilities to the highest level. Of course, they do have a rather substantial speed bump in their quest nemesis, Master Kaen....
The Monk job in Final Fantasy V. Monks can't wield any weapons, but have the Brawl ability, which allows you to do as much damage as an armed fighter with your bare hands (without this ability, the damage you inflict is usually a single digit).
The Black Belt/Master of the original Final Fantasy (known as Monk/Super Monk in the original Japanese version). His first playthrough, he killed Kraken in the second encounter in one attack.
A maximum level (50, in this case) Master in Final Fantasy I will, in one attack, do enough damage to kill Chaos, the final boss, twice over. Cast Fast on him, and he'll double that.
Yang's Daughter Ursula in the After Years is a monk (though her class is listed as Princess during her debut chapter), but she has different commands from her father aside from the standard "Fight" and "Item", and the traditional Monk move "Kick".
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has the upgrade of the White Monk (which use knuckles and gloves): the Master Monk, which is stronger unarmed than with all except one weapon, but can equip poles to learn some really strong attacks. They can however, wield shields with a special ability, making them insanely hard to hit.
At one of the major points of Final Fantasy VIII most of the party is in a high-tech prison with no weapons, they all give up hope until Zell realizes he's the group's martial artist and doesn't need any weapons. He then proceeds to beat the crap out of a couple of guards and get their weapons back.
Interestingly, Vayne of Final Fantasy XII reveals himself as one, using several of the class's techniques in the first of his final boss forms.
If you learn the "brawler" license ability, the game will calculate damage in line with how Final Fantasy V did it. However, it's not the best approach to combat, since you can't equip a shield, bare-fisted fighting means no fancy weapon buffs/elements, and you have to sacrifice your accessory slot to keep up with everyone else.
Monks in Final Fantasy XI ditch the weak endgame trend of barefist fighters; they start off with naturally high vitality and hp, getting to the point where they have several hundred more hitpoints than "tank" jobs of their level, and with multiple passive traits and abilities are among the best damage dealing and pvp jobs in the game.
This also pops up in Chrono Trigger; the party gets tossed into a prison without weapons or armour, or even a way to swap party members, and until you find where the jailers have hidden your equipment, any enemies the party encounters will automatically defeat them and throw them back in jail. Unless you have the bare-handed fighter Ayla in the party, in which case she can start tearing through bad guys as soon as you get out of your cell.
Ayla is notable also because she is an exception to the "weakens by endgame" tendency. At higher levels she can still do more damage with her bare fists than Crono with his Infinity+1 Sword. And at level 96+ note Way higher level than you'll ever need to be in order to win the game, critical hits with her fists do a guaranteed9999 damage.
Final Fantasy Tactics goes here as well. I like the idea of punching out dragons, though. As with the Final Fantasy V Monks, the Monks in Tactics fight barehanded but can do just as much, if not more, damage as the armed characters. They also have the "Brawler" support ability which allows non-Monk characters to also fight barehanded and deal comparable damage. And this is a particularly good idea too, as barehanded attacks are potentially some of the most powerful attacks you can put out, with only some of the rare weapons being able to out-pace the damage done by a properly equipped (with mere store-bought items) Monk.
Final Fantasy II is a strange case. All characters can learn to tear enemies apart with their bare hands by attacking without weapons often enough and fists are one of the faster 'weapons' to Cap if the player focuses on them.
Among the Loads and Loads of Characters in Chrono Cross, a few are 'unarmed' in the traditional sense. However, not many of them are actually martial artists. The unarmed (and, in two cases, nonhumanoid) fighters still use 'glove's though.
In all SaGa games, all characters have the ability to Punch (or Kick). In SaGa Frontier, using nothing but punch techniques leads to one of the most game breaking skills in the series.
Eternal Sonata has Falsetto, who, despite using no weapons, is still capable of dealing massive damage.
While a bow is her main weapon, Viola simply punches the crap out of monsters in her standard combos and some specials.
The Fighter class in Dragon Quest III is basically this. Naturally, such characters use claws to keep up —- something hinted at by a character revered for taking down a bear in hand-to-hand combat.
Dragon Quest VI has a Martial Artist class (a retranslation of the Fighter class), though in this game weapon and armor selections are not based on class so unarmed combat is not a strict requirement.
There's also one in Dragon Quest VII, though it only has a partial effect on what the user can/cannot equip. (Mainly it's used to teach special moves.)
All the playable characters in Dragon Quest VIII get an Unarmed skill set, though weapons are generally more useful in most cases.
Dragon Quest IX has a Martial Artist class, which has access to the Fisticuffs skill set, which if maxed out increases the amount of damage done while bare-handed.
One common way to avoid doing massive damage to your own party when one or more of your characters are confused is to deliberately leave fisticuffs undeveloped and then simply unequip the weapons as necessary.
The Fallout series: J.E. Sawyer of the canceled Van Buren project said that he intended unarmed fighters to be 'like mobile grenades'. And that's a good description for them in Fallout 2 and 3. In both of those, barehanded attacks have a quicker attack rate and markedly higher crit rate. In both of them, a single strike to the head has a good potential for instant kills, even against tougher opponents. In both, the unarmed fighter was somewhat left behind at the finale, against Frank Horrigan in Fallout 2 and during Liberty Prime's march in Fallout 3, but the form is still a viable game-finisher.
Bare fists took a nerf in favor of 'unarmed weapons' in Fallout: New Vegas, and the critical rate is no longer significant. Hence, the most tightly optimized barehanded fighter will not reach the fighting potential of a fist-weapon wielder.
For all the complaints regarding the uselessness of Unarmed/Unarmored skills in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, they were anything but. Unencumbered for maximum maneuverability, with high speed no fatigue cost strikes, a monk build could render any opponent useless from fatigue loss in the first second, then take them down at leisure. Their weakness was finishing an opponent due to inability to deal health damage unless the opponent was unconscious, so at times it was a tedious exercise keeping an entire room knocked down while slowly chipping away at their life. But the final Boss was unkillable through combat, so keeping his fatigue low was a more workable strategy than direct damage hits.
Fei, Citan, and Rico from Xenogears all fight barehanded. They're all powerful fighters, too. Subverted in Citan's case when he eventually gets a slight upgrade as part of the plot. He'd been holding it in reserve, apparently.
All the barehanded fighters seriously lose out in attack strength towards the end of the game, even to Elly who is a mage. Fei more than makes up for it with his ridiculously powerful techniques that makes him the most powerful in non-mecha fights.
Avernum 3 has this accidentally. Nobody thought to apply the damage cap to punches.
The Monk class in Diablo III is this, unless you have his using a bo staff or brass knuckles. Any other weapon you put on him, while you will get all the stats from it, will remain at his hip while he punches fools to death.
In MadWorld, the Black Baron reveals himself to be one in the very last boss fight. Weapons seem kind of redundant when you're jacked enough to perform non-comical Megaton Punches and create localized tornadoes.
By cross-training your dwarves in Dwarf Fortress with various tasks like mining, crafting professions and bookkeeping (yes) they can become legendarily strong, agile and tough. Then train them as wrestlers and they will literally scatter limbs and body parts of their enemies across the landscape with their bare hands.
In Rune Factory 3, the main character can Brawl when he learns to transform into a Golden Woolly. He cannot wield weapons when Brawling, but with practice can deal a huge amount of damage.
The Monk class of Desktop Dungeons takes a 50% physical damage penalty due to the HAND-TO-HAND attribute.
You can theoretically make one in Skyrim, but with a twist: there's no actual "unarmed" skill, nor are there any "fist weapons". Even training up one-handed weapons won't give you any useful perks. You need to build up your Heavy Armor stat until you unlock the "Fists of Steel", which adds your gauntlets' armor rating to the base damage of your punches, and if you find the Gloves of the Pugilist item you also gain the "Fortify unarmed" enchantment. After these are unlocked, you're suddenly going from long, grueling fights, to counting the seconds before the brutal kill-animations run.
Older games in The Elder Scrolls do include a hand to hand combat skill, and, even if not very damaging at the start, it quickly becomes the most economic way of dealing decent damage in the games.
Monks in Might and Magic VII can be this (they're the only ones that can become Grandmaster in Unarmed and Dodge), or they can use staves. Though by the end-game it is fairly likely you'll have switched to staves even if you started out focusing on unarmed combat — the Grandmaster bonus for the Staff skill (which Monks are the only ones who can get) is that using a staff counts as being unarmed for the purposes of the Unarmed skill.
BioForge: Despite the availability of firearms, it is very much possible to play through the game fighting only with your hands and feet. It helps that you're a cyborg and thus presumably have augmented strength.
In Kingdom of Loathing, you can choose to become one of these after beating all of the council's quests at least once and starting the game anew. "The Way of the Surprising Fist" only allows you to fight barehanded, and compensates by having additional skills of both great power and humour. Such as, but not limited to, hitting strikes in a drunken baby style.
A limited-time item allowed Disco Bandits to learn the skill "Kung Fu Hustler", which grants them special abilities as long as they fight bare-handed. Needless to say, this is an excellent skill to have in Surprising Fist.
It's one of many options for a Dwarf Fortress adventurer, and possibly one of the most efficient against human-sized creatures that need to breath, since a well trained wrestler can land a guaranteed kill in three moves (grab throat, strangle, attack head).
League of Legends has Lee Sin, who is very much this, and Udyr, who's this plus animal spirits.
World of Warcraft introduced the monk class in the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Monks equip weapons to get improved stats, but the only time they use them to actually attack is with the "Jab" ability, and this is purely cosmetic. And even then, you can get a minor glyph which causes jab to use the "unarmed" animation instead of the one matching the weapon you have equiped.
Black Belt from 8-Bit Theater is based on the character class from the original Final Fantasy. Not only is he capable of highly effective hand to hand combat but either his training or his Munchausen-esq foolishness allows him to utterly defy the laws of physics.
The Dungeons & Dragons implementation of this trope is mocked in The Order of the Stick: On The Origin of PCs, when Belkar bullies a monk for having had to train ceaselessly his whole life and swear himself to chastity in order to be as effective barehanded as any random mook would be just by picking up a sword.
In ThunderCats (2011), Thunderian princes Lion-O and Tygra are both adept at this type of combat. Lion-O uses it to beat all but the leader of a gang of muggers in a street fight, but is himself bested by older brother Tygra after impulsively challenging him to a match of Thundera's Gladiator Games.
Masutatsu Oyama, the founder of the Kyokushinkai style of karate, has this reputation. He would hold public demonstrations where he would "fight" a bull with no weapons, though the bulls might have been restrained during the demonstration.
Monks in Zangband lose their special monk attacks when wielding weapons, and lose bonuses when wearing heavy armor. Their magic skills are fairly good, though.
Yu-Gi-Oh! has two monsters that fit this trope — Monk Fighter and Master Monk. Both are (inexplicably) Rock-Types, both are seen smashing rocks with their hands (Fighter) and feet (Master), and both come with useful effects — when your Fighter battles, your life points don't feel it, and Master Monk can attack twice. They also get two support cards — Lone Wolf, and Kaminote Blow. Kaminote Blow in particular makes it so that, during the turn it's played, any monster attacked by your Monk Fighter or Master Monk will invariably DIE at the end of the battle. This is made sufficiently noteworthy due to the fact that its card picture shows Master Monk shattering the (3000-Defense-to-his-1900-Attack) Millenium Shield with his BARE FIST. Thus securing the Monks a spot on this page.
Princess Suzushiro Shikikagura from Princess Waltz is this, made from equal parts Hotblooded and Determinator. Funnily enough, she becomes rather cocky whenever the fighting starts, which is a stark contrast to how she usually is outside of them.
Chen-Chen in Harkovast is a Kung-fu nun who can shatter her enemies skulls with her fists!