Both fiction and real life are no strangers to massive battles between enormous armies consisting of thousands of soldiers. Needless to say, such a battle will invariably result in obscene amounts of bloodshed, carnage, death, slaying, maiming, slaughtering, stubbing of toes, and generally any other word for mass killing you can think of. Often times there will be one or more Badasses involved in the battle and said Badasses will be responsible for most of the killing of the other side's Mooks.
Sometimes you'll have two or more Badasses on one side of the fight. They may be best friends or bitter rivals, or any other kind of relationship. One of them may propose a contest to see who's the bigger Badass. And what kind of contest could possibly determine such a thing? See which one of them can kill the most of the other side's Mooks. Right before a huge battle, or during one, they agree that whoever kills more Mooks is officially the better fighter, and has superior combat skills.
The level of hostility in the challenge can vary from a friendly jest between comrades to the participants trying to kill each other as well during the ensuing ruckus. Can also be done when the two are simply infiltrating an enemy base by themselves or fending off a horde of enemies that ambushed them. It is a frequent subject of mini games and contests between players in certain video and tabletop games.
Compare Back-to-Back Badasses, which may very well happen during the fight.
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Anime & Manga
Ichigo and Uryu in Season 1 of Bleach. Although Uryu is the only one playing. All Ichigo cares about is saving everyone from the buttload of Hollows that were just summoned, although he does declare himself the winner when he scares off the Menos that appeared.
Beet and Slade from Beet the Vandel Buster do this on multiple occasions. Slade usually wins, but Beet takes out the stronger monsters.
In One Piece, Zoro and Sanji usually compete about any petty thing, including this. When the team has its first battle while being reunited, the two argue over who did the most damage to a cyborg they simultaneously killed. In the next arc, the crew finds itself in a giant melee against over 10,000 enemies. The crew stands together to fight against those numbers, and several members are ready to do damage to as many as possible, until Luffy non-lethally knocks out half of them, and they chide him for hogging all the fun.
In Attack on Titan, Thomas challenges Eren and the rest of the squad to one during their first battle. Instead, Thomas is the first member of the squad to be Eaten Alive and no one manages to score a kill before everything goes horribly wrong.
While they aren't shown competing with each other for Titan kills, Eren establishes Levi's elite squad's reputation to the audience by mentioning their Titan and assist kills, suggesting they do keep count like real life flying aces or snipers.
Asterix and Obelix in Astérix the Legionary: not actual killing, since no humans are ever killed in Astérix, but collecting of helmets of defeated Romans instead. Obélix always won, because Astérix would never bother to actually collect the helmets.
Astérix in Belgium has a contest with Astérix, Obélix, and Vitalstatistix competing against a Belgian village to see who could wreck more Roman forts.
In a slightly less violent vein, the original Hourman and Atom of the Justice Society of America would often keep count of the people they beat up as a contest.
Rogues Gallery villains the Trigger Twins liked to have little contests like this, though in one case where there were only two men, each killed by a different Trigger, Tom insisted that "Mine hit the ground first," and Tad answered "Mine was taller." This is in reference to the John Wayne film The War Wagon.
Another Batman Villain, Victor Zsasz, keeps an obsessive count of the number of people he's "liberated", by carving marks into his own flesh. These marks are so important to him that, on one occasion when he thought he'd killed the Bat and made his mark, he went crazier than usual when he found out Batman had survived. Ditto when he made a mark for Alfred.
That specific film was also referenced in the G.I. Joe Reloaded series, specifically laid out and lampshaded by Beach-Head... to Snake Eyes.
The first time Wolverine appeared in Daredevil's comic he invoked this during a mook brawl.
Wolverine: When you gonna pull your weight? I've taken down a dozen and you've only got what? Four? Daredevil: This is a necessity, not a contest, (PUNCH!) five.
Starship Troopers: Invasion has a variant: Trig keeps a running tally of every bug she kills with her custom rifle, a gift from her parents. The reason she keeps the tally? She wants to kill a bug for every person in her hometown, including her family, who were killed when the Bugs attacked and destroyed it. After she is killed, Bugspray takes up her weapon and picks up the count for her, during his last stand.
In the movies, the competition between Gimli and Legolas started at Helm's Deep was kept longer, onto the Battle of Minas Tirith. This lead to a particularly humorous exchange between the two. After Legolas single-handedly killed a rampaging 60-feet-tall Oliphant, including its riders, an irate Gimli declares, "That still only counts as one!"
The Two Towers began the competition, and featured several exchanges on the theme:
Gimli: Legolas! Two already! Legolas: I'm on seventeen! (shoots two Uruk-Hai as they come over the battlement) Nineteen! Gimli: Argh! I'll have no pointy-ear outscoring me! (later in the battle, as the camera pans away, his cries echoing throughout the battlefield...) Gimli: ...twenty-one-ah! Twenty-two-ah!... (and finally, in the Extended Edition, after the battle) Legolas: Final Count: forty-two. Gimli:(chuckles)Forty-two? Oh that's not bad for a pointy-eared Elvish princeling. I myself am sitting pretty on forty-three. Legolas:(shoots an Uruk-Hai beneath Gimli) Forty-three Gimli: He was already dead! Legolas: He was twitching. Gimli: He was twitching... because he's got my axe embedded in his nervous system!(shakes axe; Uruk twitches violently)
The friendly version, between Stelios, and Astinos (Captain's son), in 300.
The 2008 movie Pathology, although it has less to do with quantity and more to do with "quality" (the competitors must try to find out how the others killed their recent victims).
Spoofed in Hot Shots! Part Deux. During a shootout, there is a counter running which declared at different numbers to have a bigger body count as other movies. At the end, the counter declares the movie to be the most brutal ever. The numbers are a joke, but the movie's real body count was still a record at the time with 114. Although they only fall down without any visible wounds (even the guy who gets literally splattered over a wall lacks regular injuries), making the "bloodiest" claim a complete lie. Which may have been a subtle joke in itself.
Played straight in Hunting Humans, wherein 2 clinical psychopaths and methodical serial killers find themselves having to one-up each other in body-count (with the main character being more or less blackmailed to do so, ironically enough).
In The Frighteners, Serial Killer Johnny Charles Bartlett is obsessed with his own body count and constantly compares it to other legendary serial killers. This habit continues even after his death.
From Stargate Atlantis, episode 3x04: "Sateda". Sheppard gives his body count of Wraith, Teyla gives hers, and Sheppard changes his to one more than hers.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: This serves as a conflict point between Buffy and Riley in that Buffy outscored his season four total by the end of the first season, three years before she even met him. He's somewhere between emasculated and impressed, and on top of it now has to learn the plural of Apocalypse. The proud way with which Maggie Walsh notes he's personally taken down a bit less than two dozen HSTs only serves to underscore the humor.
While never a major plot point, the Viper pilots in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica are occasionally seen doing this. In "Scattered", Kat takes advantage of Starbuck's absence to get a high score. Admiral Cain is also mentioned to have encouraged this.
Myths & Religion
In The Bible, a young David had to collect one hundredforeskins of the Philistines in order to earn the hand of King Saul's daughter Michal in marriage. So this is Older Than Feudalism. And then he went double for nothing and collected two hundred, which made him a cut above the rest.
Squicky as it may be, collecting the foreskins of slain enemies was surest way to tally up kills without cheating; men have two ears, ten fingers... only one foreskin. Lips and nose are one each, but they could come from women. Furthermore, Judeans were circumcised and Gentiles were not, so that meant David couldn't harvest from his own dead soldiers.
In a short story published in the Inferno! magazine, it transpires that that Khornate Champion Kharn the Betrayer has a kill-counter built into the H.U.D. of his helmet, and regularly amuses himself by trying to break his own Personal Best in every battle and campaign that he takes part in; a tally of 5,000 in a day being merely "quite good" by his own reckoning.
Chaos Champions do this in both 40K and Warhammer, especially Khornates. Dedicating their kills to a particular god gets them favors (and occasionally curses, the Chaos gods are weird like that).
Dr. Einstein: You cannot count the one in South Bend. He died of pneumonia! Jonathan: He wouldn't have died of pneumonia if I hadn't shot him! Dr. Einstein: No, no, Johnny. You cannot count him. You got twelve, they got twelve. The old ladies is just as good as you are!
EVE Online has entire websites dedicated to tracking exactly who killed who with what where. They are known as killboards.
One early mission in Fable I has your character and Whisper pitted against each other to see who can kill more goblins. The game won't proceed unless you win. If the two of you tie, she says that because she got there first, she won. So unfair.
A fairly twisted version of this occurs in Warcraft III, in which Prince Arthas must prevent dreadlord Mal'Ganis from turning the sleeping occupants of a human city into an unstoppable army of the undead by finding and killing them himself first. (In his defense, they had already been infected by a plague which caused undead transformation.) A scoreboard at the top of the screen even keeps track of how many each of them has converted or culled while Arthas and his men set fire to their homes and slaughter them in the street. Is it any wonder that Arthas ends up becoming The Evil Prince?
A quest in Sholazar Basin from "Wrath of the Lich King". Gets treated this way. The quest has you kill 50 of any beast in the basin in a race against the quest giver. He shows up at certain milestones to taunt you with his kill count, and is ahead of you by a considerable amount, then decides to take a nap, allowing you to surpass him in the meantime.
Fire Emblem Jugdral Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War has Julius and Ishtar have such a competition. The problem is, they're the most powerful units in the game, and they're the enemies. They will not leave until they kill someone, and let's say without the Valkyrie staff, you start to really hate Julius.
There's a mission in the Crimson Skies Xbox adaptation in which you have to man a turret and shoot down Die Spinne cargo zeppelins, competing with a tourist.
An amusing Bathroom Stall Graffiti version in the safe room of No Mercy 4. Each post one-ups the previous, culminating in someone posting their 53,595 kill-count (which itself had several replies calling bullshit on it). Killing that many Infected yourself gets you an achievement, called "Zombie Genocidest". This number is actually a reference to the previous zombie-killing game Dead Rising, where the "Zombie Genocider" achievement required 53,594 zombie kills. Which is, in itself, based on chopper pilot Ed's conversation during the intro of the game: "Here she is. Hahaha! Willamette, Colorado. Population: 53,594. Distinguishing characteristics: Jack shit!"
A more traditional example from the second game; a soldier has kept a tally of how many zombies he's killed. He's also kept a tally of how many people he's killed.
Then comes Prototype, which takes it one step further with its "Trail of Corpses" achievement, the amount sitting at 53,596 infected kills. This is gonna be an industry Running Gag, isn't it?
Looks like it, and even non-zombie games are in on it too: Rock Band 3 has an achievement, "HOPO-cidal maniac" that reads, "Kill 53,596 Hammer-ons and Pull-offs."
In Deus Ex Gunther Hermann and Anna Navarre seem to have such a competition, though it serves more to underscore how far gone they are. If the Player Character is killed by Anna, she'll sometimes say "Nine hundred and ten. I'm catching up, Gunther."
Several of the Wing Commander games had a scoreboard on the ship, showing the kills of all the pilots on board. The wingmen would gain kills despite not going on missions (at least, not with you), and some were much better at killing than others. Maniac would sometimes have more kills than you even if you didn't take him with you, ever, in the later games.
Star Wars: Republic Commando has Sev and Scorch, two of your commando team, constantly chattering about their kill count. In the novelization, it's revealed that Sev has his heart set on getting 4,982 kills, one for each commando killed on Geonosis.
Sev: Damn, I don't believe it! Scorch: What's wrong, Sev? Sev: I've lost count of my kills!
The WAR update did this between the Demo and Soldier, seeing who could kill the most of the other class to decide who would be given the privilege of using the Gun Boats. Individual players were given a kill count at the corner of their HUD telling them how many Soldiers they've killed as a Demo, or vise-versa. The Soldier won. Naturally, most of the players cheated.
The Announcer: Now, I have no actual proof that these men cheated. Lucky for me, then, that I am still in possession of basic common bloody sense. The top Soldier, for example, would have had to kill a Demoman every 2.5 seconds for a week straight, somehow circumventing respawn timers or the need to actually traverse across a map, without once pausing to sleep or go to the bathroom. In other words, he is either cheating, or he is a hallucinating sleep-deprived psychotic with severe constipation and unerringly good aim. In either event, I am confident he is ashamed of himself.
Team Fortress 2 has also the Strange Weapons introduced in the Über Update, those weapons are just like the normal weapons but with counters, the most common counter is "Players Killed", but with "Strange Parts" you can have more counters like "Buildings Destroyed", "Headshot Kills", "Point-Blank Kills", "Long-Distance Kills" and players of a specific class killed, changing the owner of the weapon reset the counters to 0.
And also Killstreak Kits, that make your weapon count kills made in a single life.
Bringing both Special Weapons marines in Alien Swarm will cause competition-specific dialogue.
Annihilators have these. At times, they've attacked their own forces to up their kill count. Of course, you never see that in-game because after Ciretako (the most famous Annihilator friendly fire incident) the kill counters were removed and the annihilators were given new stimulants making them more likely to attack their enemies. They were removed, then put back when it was proved how much they improve combat performance. One log you can find has the Komato who wrote the kill count display shitting himself because the counter only has four characters and will eventually roll over from 9999 to 0, and he knows how that will end for him. Apparently Iosa the Invincible reported the bug once.
Ansaksie plays with this trope: she has a body count competition with Iji, except the goal is to keep the numbers as low as possible.
Every FPS death match ever.
In Darksiders, War and Ulthane's brawl is interrupted by a band of angels out for War's blood. Ulthane is miffed that they interfered in the first good fight he's had in a while, so he and War have an impromptu "pigeon plucking" contest. If War has a higher kill count by the end, Ulthane gives him a weapon enhancement as an award.
In Mass Effect, Garrus' visor includes an optional mode that allows him to track the number of kills he has made in comparison to teammates whose suits are synced to his (though this information is only available from his dossier after completing the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC).
Though the characters don't actually keep count, Silly!Hawke and Varric have dialogue during combat that implies this is going on in Dragon Age II.
Hawke: One more for me! We're keeping score, right? Varric: That's three for me! How many have you got, Hawke?
Dawn of War: Dark Crusade has a mission where you need to kill between seventy to over a hundred bodies before your enemy does to win the favor of a daemon of Khorne. Hilariously easy if you're facing the ImperialGuard.
Pretty much any co-op game of Dynasty Warriors has the potential to turn into this. And with Dynasty Warriors Online, It's a game mode! You and 3 other players, or A.I. players, go against 4 enemies to see who can commit mass genocide first, by defeating either 2000 or 3000 helpless soldiers between all 4 on that team, and a backup condition, should the main objective of other matches not be met, is also this but with no limit. As with above, they all have an actual incentive to do it even when it's not the game mode, as you will score a little more honor if you've killed more mooks than your team.
The Assassin's Creed multiplayer actually subverts this as the winner of the game is more about how well and stealthy your kills are rather than how many. So there are situations where someone could have killed twice as many as you, but will often either win or lose by a few hundred points.
A competition of the friendly variety occurs in Star Wars: Republic Commando between squad mates Scorch and Sev. Third squad member Fixer wants none of it.
Boss: This is the door to the bridge. Expect a large welcoming party. Sev: Now I'm really going to rack up the kills. Scorch: Not if I get 'em first. Fixer: Just don't get so caught up in counting that you forget to cover me!
In The Old Republic, one of the Jedi Consular's companions is Qyzen Fess, a Trandoshan bounty hunter (and regular hunter) who keeps detailed counts of his enemies dispatched as part of his worship of the "Scorekeeper", a Trandoshan goddess of the hunt. At one point he encounters fellow companion Felix Iresso, a career soldier who values accomplishing the objective and then getting everyone out alive, and asks him which of the two has a higher kill count. Iresso confesses to the Consular that he actually doesn't know, as he considers it unimportant compared to missions completed, and wryly wonders if he should start keeping track.
Hellsinker has a kill counter on the HUD. Interstingly, killing parts of enemies rather than the enemy itself counts as individual kills. You get a special "Breakthrough" extra life at 2,500 kills, or 5,000 if you've already hit the Spirit Breakthrough. Subverted with the player base, in that those playing seriously generally ignore kill count (for purposes other than Breakthroughs) in favor of Spirits instead. Nonetheless, the fan-operated hellsinker. scoreboard displays kill counts for each entry alongisde Spirit and Token counts, and can even be sorted by kill count.
Played for laughs in Red vs. Blue, Season 3, when Sarge and Caboose happen upon a pile of dead Blues while chasing Doc/O'Malley:
Sarge: Once again I find myself torn. On the one hand, there's one less Blue in the universe. But now Doc's got a bigger body count than me! And that just won't do.
Mind that Sarge's body count up to that point is effectively zero.
Inverted in Flaky Pastry, when the normally bloodthirsty Zintiel competes with her arch rival Mona to see who can rescue the most people.
In Wilys Defense's 200th comic starts off with God demanding that his Angels go down to Earth and get them to convert to him. Somewhere along the line Death and Magdelena, the Angels of Death and Destruction, respectively, turn the trip to Earth into one of these. Death ends up winning by forecasting a hurricane at the last minute.
DM of the Rings: The player running Legolas tries to start the same competition with Gimli's player at Helm's Deep as occurred in The Lord of the Rings. Gimli points out that Legolas has a head start being able to pick off targets at range but will be forced to resort to daggers once he runs out of arrows, at which point Gimli will pwn him.
In Code Lyoko, Ulrich and Odd have the friendly competition kind ongoing about who kill the most of XANA's monsters. In episode "The Pretender", backed up by statistics, Jérémie declares the winner of the month to be... Aelita, to Odd and Ulrich's dismay.
Road Rovers: Although he was the only contestant, Blitz has the goal of biting one-thousand tooshies. His prize? A new flea collar.
Drew and Doyle on The Secret Saturdays do an inverted version in one episode, who can save the most people from an erupting volcano.
Anakin and Ahsoka has an ongoing game in Star Wars: The Clone Wars about who can destroy the most droids. Ki-Adi-Mundi joins in one episode.
Grune: If y'wanna make it ta general, you'll have to do better than that. Panthro:(laughs) I'm eleven lizards ahead a' you, Captain! Grune:(swings his mace, hitting two Lizards, laughs) Make that nine!
Wakfu: Sadlygrove and Rubilax have an impromptu competition in season 2 episode 9 during "Le Rush" in Rushu's world — that is, fighting 666 minor shushus as a form of execution. There's just the little problem that Sadlygrove can't count.
There was a competition between two Japanese officers during the second world war in China to be the first to kill one hundred people. With swords. Most scholars correctly point out that, realistically, the only way to achieve such numbers would be through the execution of prisoners of war rather than actual hand-to-hand combat with the enemy in the middle of battle. Modern studies concluded that the story was probably fabricated by the newspapers with the help of the two soldiers, but it still says the lot about the political climate of the era.
And according to one newspaper headline, the scores were so close (106-105) that they entered an extra "inning." Yes, that's the actual terminology used. And this was just a small part of the campaign commonly referred to as the Rape of Nanking.
This goes back to the feudal practice called Kubi-jikken, which is literally counting heads at the end of battle. This was important, as at the time samurai's pay was directly related to how many and who he killed.
In a similar example, there is an infamous story of how, during their WW2 liquidation of Croatia's Jews, Romani, Serbs, non-Catholics, and the like, the Ustae guards (essentially the Croatian SS, although even the actual SS death camp guards were sickened by their brutality) at Croatia's Jasenovac concentration camp used knives called "Serb Cutters" in sadistic body count competitions to see who could cut the throats of the most newly arrived inmates. One of the guards, Petar Brzica, boasted of cutting the throats of about 1,360 new arrivals. Even the lower estimates put his body count at at least 800 murdered prisoners. Other participants who confessed to participating in the bet included Ante Zrinusic, who killed some 600 inmates, and Mile Friganovic, who gave a detailed and consistent report of the incident and admitted to having killed some 1,100 inmates.
During the Vietnam War, due to the nebulous nature of the conflict, the US Army resorted to body count of dead Viet Cong soldiers as a measure of its effectiveness. Unfortunately, this led to a great deal of abuse, such as counting limbs as whole bodies.
The strict definition of "air ace" is "a fighter pilot who has shot down a certain number of enemy fighters" (usually 5). Manfred von Richtofen's record of 80 kills was unbeaten in World War I. In all of the history of air warfare, though, the highest scoring ace is Erich Hartmann of the WWII Luftwaffe, who was credited with 352 kills over the Eastern Front. The highest scoring Allied ace is rather farther down the list of WW2 aces, Ivan Kozhedub of the Soviet Union with 62 kills (the Allied air forces had a policy of rotating out the best pilots to serve as trainers, so this isn't unexpected). Gun-cams were invented to keep track of the fighter pilots' kills, for the very reason of invoking this trope. Note that the gun-cams had a purpose beyond kill-counts — to accurately gauge how much enemy material had been destroyed.
Snipers. Simo Häyhä has the largest body count ever, standing at 705 confirmed kills, which he all scored in a war that lasted less than a hundred days. The next best, Francis Pegahmagabow, had 378 kills. Which like aircraft is more about keeping track of how many enemy forces are left for the spotter to find out if it is safe to go in yet or not. Snipers keeps detailed notes about every kill.
Most modern Army servicemen, however, look down heavily upon anyone asking how many men they had killed in wars and often reject trigger-happy recruits who would brag about kill counts.
James Gandofini did research for his role in In the Loop by going to the Pentagon and talking to some of the generals there; he encountered one who couldn't remember if he'd killed anyone. The writers turned it into a comedic moment between Gandolfini's character and Malcolm Tucker.
In Ancient Rome, whether or not a general got a triumph was dependant on how many thousand enemies his army had killed.