Contractual Boss Immunity

The top-level bosses in a game will be immune to the player's most effective or strongest attacks.

Any magician, fighter, or hero with powers, abilities, or weapons that enable him or her to cut through mooks like butter will rarely be able to use these skills on The Dragon or the Big Bad. In Video Games these enemies will be flat out immune to these attacks, or in the case of a first person shooter be able to take head-shots and keep on ticking, while (annoyingly) players have no such protection from their instant-death attacks. Where's the justice?

The reason programmers and authors do this is for game balance and narrative issues. Where's the big climactic and fun battle if the hero just lops off the enemy's head? A hero who can send the Big Bad into the Phantom Zone, turn them to stone, cleave them limb from limb, or otherwise kill/disable them in less than a heartbeat skirts dangerously close to Boring Invincible Hero.

However, this Contractual Boss Immunity ends up resulting in Gameplay and Story Segregation that will really bug players, or worse, harm them if they put a lot of their XP into powering up these abilities. Essentially, this is what puts the "Useless" in most Useless Useful Spells, especially in RPGs; what's the point of using an expensive, powerful attack when it only works on enemies you can defeat with a weak one?

However, averting this trope can make for a different and entertaining atmosphere. Allowing players to One-Hit Kill any enemy, turn the Final Boss to stone, or characters to use the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on Bill can be downright awesome!

As you can see, this veers in and out of Acceptable Breaks from Reality. It can be fun to kill a Final Boss with the uber attacks that are normally useless; but it can also be rather boring to do so.

Unrelated to Joker Immunity. Compare SNK Boss, which is a type of Boss for Fighting Games that really breaks the rules.


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  • In several Metroid games, there exists a "Speed Booster" item that acts as an instant kill to practical anything it touches. However, in Metroid: Fusion the SA-X, which was probably intended to be undefeatable, cannot be damaged by it (or by the derived ability called the Shinespark, which has the same effect on enemies as the Speed Booster).

    Same thing with Screw Attack. It instakills normal enemies but doesn't work on any boss. It is not completely useless, but generally only causes very little damage to the boss and you take some damage yourself or it has to be very precisely aimed (in this case, though, it does deal MASSIVE DAMAGE).
  • Bosses in No More Heroes are completely immune to regular attacks, unless they are struck during specific times during their attacks. In the first game, they're all immune to Anarchy in the Galaxy, which one hit kills regular enemies.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • In Cave Story, Curly Brace's Air Tank generates a bubble shield that protects her from A) drowning and B) your Missile Launcher.
  • The bosses of the DLC "special stages" in Mega Man 10 are completely immune to all of the secondary boss weapons (which you automatically receive when you begin the stage). Giving them no special weakness would have been one thing, but it's irritating that you can't even access those weapons' interesting attack patterns doing normal damage.
  • In Syphon Filter, the Big Bad is mysteriously immune to all attacks except gas grenades. Likely Story-Driven Invulnerability. Justified with the second boss, Girdeux, who wears full body armor, except for his flamethrower tank. The sequel's fully-armored final boss is impervious to all conventional weapons including grenades, so defeating him requires using an auto-shotgun to propel him into a helicopter's tail rotor blades.
  • The Harmonic Combos of Jade Empire don't work on boss characters.
  • In the Kirby games, bosses and minibosses generally cannot be inhaled, because they're bigger than Kirby. Meta Knight, however, is a little guy with cape and armor who is also immune to Kirby's ability. In the anime, Kirby tries to inhale him, but Meta Knight just stands still, saying that he has "special defenses".
  • In Sonic Colors, collecting all of the Chaos Emeralds allows you to turn into Super Sonic in the regular levels. However, you can't use this ability in boss fights, mostly because Super Sonic replaces the Wisp gimmick, which most of the boss fights revolve around.
  • Sith bosses in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed are immune (most of the time) to every of your attacks except standard lightsaber attacks and electrified lightsaber attacks. Thrown sabers will fall into the ground, they just stand against force pushes, block your lightning with open hands, pretend like nothing is happening when you pull of a force repulse and the impossibility of force grab and mind tricks should be obvious.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures video game for Nintendo, Dizzy Devil's special ability is the tasmanian devil tornado, which makes him invulnerable and kills anything that touches him. Except for bosses, which just hurt him as though he wasn't in tornado mode.
  • In Mega Pony, Discord isn't immune to any weapons per se, but there is no difference in the amount of damage they do on him.
  • The bosses in Ittle Dew can't be frozen, teleported, or launched by a portal block (an instant kill on anything else). While there are some normal enemies that are immune to being frozen, none are immune to the other two.
  • In Darksiders, Chaos Form grants you invulnerability and increased damage for a short period of time, that allows you to make mince-meant out of any enemy, but its largely ineffective against bosses. Justified as most of them require an specific way and items you collected previously to defeat them. Even the Final Boss, which is a more conventional fight than other boss battles in game, is immune to it. Try to activate Chaos Form on him and he will immediately shrug it off as if it was nothing.

  • In a lot of cases (especially if they are not/do not become playable), fighting game bosses are often invulnerable to throws and any attack that causes a cinematic. This may be linked to bosses that are much (sometimes much) bigger than any of the playable characters - seeing a figure like that being tossed around in a cinematic sequence like a person a fraction of their size doesn't make much sense.
  • Happens in SoulCalibur III in some Quick Arena battles: sometimes the conditions for winning a match are such that normally powerful attacks become useless or not worth it. This happens even if the attack is known to do 90-100% damage most of the time (matches where an opponent must be bounced off a wall, hit with a soul charged attack, while taunting, etc etc).
    • Also, Bonus Boss Night Terror can't be defeated by a ring out (He can fly).
    • Likewise, in SoulCalibur IV it's not uncommon for bosses and tougher enemies to be equipped with the Auto Grapple Break and Auto Nullify Ringout skills.
      • The final boss in the tower mode, Algol, has Nullify Ringout S equipped (S being better than the ABC ranks players can use), which essentially means you can't ring him out by any means. However, you can trick him into JUMPING out of the ring, making what is normally the hardest fight in the game an Anticlimax Boss (the level before him more than makes up for it in difficulty, though).
  • The final boss and his predecessor in Midway's War Gods are both immune to throw attacks. Since throws are game-breakingly overpowered in this game, it is easy for a new player to exploit his way up to the boss and then be powerless when his only method of attack no longer works.
  • In Guilty Gear XX AC, You can't activate an instant kill move against the final boss (believe me, you want to.)
    • Likewise, Takemikazuchi from BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma is immune to grabs and immobilization effects. This includes a chunk of Distortion Drives and all Astral Heats. Several drives have no effect as well.

  • Firestarter gave special abilities (aka Artifacts) that gave a significant boost. You couldn't use them during boss fights, but special abilities already in use (incuding one that slows all enemies) weren't stopped.
  • In Heretic and Hexen, if an attack would guarantee a one-hit kill or render the enemy as good as dead (such as by transforming them into something weak), boss monsters are either completely immune to it (in the case of special effects) or take a negligible amount of damage (in the case of literal one hit kills).
    • The Morph Ovum in Heretic turns most enemies into chickens with only 10 health, but it will not work at all against Iron Liches, Maulotaurs, or D'Sparil. The Firemace Tome Power shoots a giant cannonball that kills most enemies instantly (and continues through them onto the next one), but these cannonballs will only barely hurt these three boss enemies.
    • The Porkolator in Hexen will only turn lesser enemies into pigs; it will not affect bosses.
  • In the first two Turok games, the Nuke Weapon is useless against bosses. It can, however, be used to destroy Primagen's flyers at the end of Turok 2.
  • In Bayonetta, the heroine's Torture Attacks don't work on Bosses, or even the largest of the non-Bosses. Fortunately, she has powerful attacks that are only for Boss fights.
  • Played with in the Mann Vs. Machine mode of Team Fortress 2: giant robots are immune to the Spy's backstab. There is, however, a series of upgrades to the knife that let you do a fixed amount of damage based on the upgrade level; it generally won't be the One-Hit Kill backstabs are to everything else, but it's still quite damaging, especially since you may be able to get in several before it turns around. And then there's the Tank, which not only can't be headshot or backstabbed, it is also completely immune to all negative effects like Jarate, Mad Milk, Burning, Sapped, Stun, etc.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: The bosses you have to kill usually can counter Takedowns. Jaron Namir is an exception, but only if you catch him immediately after he does a wall-mantle. Even this was only a bug that the Director's Cut removed.
  • Sanchez, the first boss-type enemy in Soldier of Fortune II, is immune to bullets (for no particular reason) and can only be killed by electrocution.
  • The Ultor Personnel Suppression Combot in Red Faction is invulnerable to conventional weapons. The only solution is to Kill It with Fire by luring it into an incinerator pit. On the other hand, by the time you face the final boss, you have an instant-kill weapon and it is allowed to work.
  • In Syndicate (2012), all Agents are immune to your normal Breach applications, although some may have specific Breach-able functions that are essential to defeating them.
  • In Doom, the Cyberdemon and Spider Mastermind are immune to splash damage, which means they only take about 40% damage from rockets and 22% damage from Arch Viles. This is understandable in order to prevent the rocket-launching Cyberdemon from harming itself with its own rockets, but the Spider Mastermind had no excuse.
    • The Icon of Sin of Doom 2 is a complete inversion to this immunity in that the boss could only be harmed by splash damage due to the unique way the level was laid out, and the only splash-damage weapon the player has access to is the rocket launcher.
  • In Borderlands 2, Maya's phaselock cannot hold most bosses and some large enemies in place... instead it just does a tremendous amount of damage to them (equal to 2.5 times her base HP).
  • In Strife, the various bosses are immune to poison bolts, though most enemies besides Acolytes are immune to it anyway. All of the alien bosses are additionally only vulnerable to The Sigil, and Macil is inexplicably only vulnerable to Sigil blasts as well.
  • Inverted in the first Quake game - Shub-Niggurath can only be harmed by a Tele-Frag.

  • FTL: Faster Than Light has the end boss be totally immune to killing off crew. If you manage to kill the crew, a superpowered AI takes over the ship, making your job even harder.
    • You can, however, kill off all but one of the crew, leaving a single gunner manning an easily-blocked laser cannon in a room with no exits, allowing your boarding parties to disable the other systems at your leisure. Gets trickier in Hard mode, where said room is connected to the main ship area, allowing said gunner to repair the other systems.
  • Dungeon Crawl: You can backstab, paralyze, confuse, or banish a lot of uniques. Many of them, however, will be immune to at least one type of special attack, more if they're undead or demonic. The exception is the highest-levels damage spells in the game: Fire Storm and Ice Storm are only 55% and 40% resistable, so even a completely fire- or ice-immune enemy will still take damage.
  • In Enter the Gungeon, bosses are completely immune to the Baleful Polymorph effect of magic weapons.
  • The only way to truly get rid of a NetHack monster is to dispose of its corpse. The Riders save for yourself when you start out spelunking have special coding that makes getting rid of their corpses nearly impossible and they are more than likely to revive under your disposal efforts. The Wizard of Yendor is similar as, after you have stolen a McGuffin from him, he will constantly revive no matter how many times he is killed and will make the remainder of your game miserable.
  • Unique monsters in Angband are immune to almost every status effect, besides any resistances the base monster might have.
  • In first two installments of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series the player is not allowed to use Orbs in a set boss battle, probably because things like the One-Shot Orb (that does exactly what it sounds like) and the Itemizer Orb (which turns an enemy into an item) would make it too easy. However, they're susceptible to every single status ailment in the book (Barring any immunities that might be granted to them by their typing or ability), which makes crippling them with moves or seeds an easy way to trivialize an otherwise difficult fight.
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity does away the restriction on using orbs in boss fights. However, all standard bosses now recover from status ailments much quicker then normal enemies do, and are immune to things that cause a One-Hit Kill. Some of the later group boss fights also have the Prevention team skill, which makes it so you can only inflict one of them with a particular status ailment at any time. Lastly, the legendary Pokemon bosses are completely immune to all status ailments and also aren't affected by Endeavor (As reducing their 1K+ HP count to equal your generally 100ish HP would make things too easy).
  • In Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, you can use pills on bosses the first time around, but not in the optional refights. This is a big part of what makes those rematches harder (Charge and Sleeping Pills in particular are very helpful). In the sequel, pills don't even work on bosses the first time.
  • The Binding of Isaac: Zigzagged. All bosses can be affected by status effects (though it takes a few more hits than normal to inflict them). The Bible kills Mom and Mom's Heart instantly, but trying to use it on any other Final Boss results in the player dying instantly instead. The Chaos Card will kill absolutely anything in one hit, including most Final Bosses... except the True Final Boss of the Afterbirth+ expansion, which is immune to it. It's also perfectly possible to gain so much attack power that most bosses are taken out in a few seconds, but two of the Afterbirth bosses have a damage-scaling attribute that causes their health to increase in proportion to the player's power, so that no matter how much power the player gains, it will take some time to wear them down.

  • Destroy the Godmodder: The Godmodder has this. An attack that could kill another entity (like a headshot or being flung into a black hole) would do nothing to the Godmodder.

  • Eternal Darkness really only has two true boss battles. The first is immune to bullets and impossible to reach with melee attacks, and has to be killed by magic cast at just the right times. The second is mostly immune to everything, except assaults on his relic of power and attacks from spirits of those who came before. Until the very end, of course.
  • Boss-type creatures in Albion are immune to most paralyzation and disintegration spells. There is one spell of each type that circumvents this immunity, potentially making the game Unwinnable, as one of the bosses carries a Plot Coupon that gets disintegrated along as well. The last boss is immune to everything (except Steal Life and lightning-based spells), but you don't have to actually beat it.
  • Most of the bosses in Skies of Arcadia are completely immune to status ailments and instant-death spells. Even more annoying is the fact that all of the bosses have a sturdy magical defense, making the player rely on weapon attacks and items more. This is actually better in the long run; items that substitute for magic spells not only not use spirit points and magic points, but they're usually stronger than the actual magic spells, even if Fina, the Squishy Wizard, casts it.
  • In Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, every single boss in the game is 100% immune to every status effect; the only exception is the two tentacles used by the Tree Guardian in Anuenue, though the boss itself is still immune.
    • This is changed in Baten Kaitos Origins, where many bosses are weak to knockdown, freeze, burning, etc. However, instant death and stun still do not work. (That) One boss, the Holoholobird, is vulnerable to sleep (sometimes), and abusing this is probably the most reliable and commonly used way of beating it.
  • In MMORPG City of Heroes, Arch-Villains and Heroes (essentially big big bosses) have a system of resistances to controlling effects such as slows, stuns and immobilizes so high that they are all but immune. This presents a significant problem for characters who specialize in these effects, ranging from forcing them to game the system or use their secondary abilities, to making them outright powerless.
    • This is referred to as the "Purple Triangles of Doom" because of the aura of purple triangles floating around the Archvillain's head. When they point up he has magnitude 50 protection against most status effects on top of the magnitude 6 protection that he would have as a normal Elite Boss. When the triangles point down, then he only has the magnitude 6 protection. This up and down cycle is not very obvious with all the other visual effects going on during battles, so usually nobody notices that they are down unless the Archvillain is suddenly locked in a Hold. For reference, your average status effect tossed around by the player will at most have a magnitude of 3.
    • Get enough control specialists on your team, though, and the Useless Useful Spells become almost Game Breaking. Two Dominators or four Controllers can lock down almost anything in the game.
  • The vast majority of Final Fantasy bosses are immune to any form of instant death attacks, status effects, and Percent Damage Attacks. There'll occasionally be one or two bosses in a game that the spells will work on, to reward players that Try Everything, and there's frequently a slots combination that'll kill anythingnote , though.
    • Surprisingly, in the original Final Fantasy I, it is possible to defeat elemental fiend Tiamat simply by having a Black Wizard cast Break on her and turn her to stone. Similarly, the boss Astos is a major pain unless you cast Silence on him, making him a pushover. In addition, the final boss can be killed by casting Bane, a One-Hit Kill spell. It doesn't always work, although that's no problem since you can infinitely cast Bane using the Bane sword as an item.
    • It's averted to a degree in Final Fantasy II. Many bosses don't resist the Matter/Dimension element, which includes five different spells that act as instant-death when used on enemies. The actual Death element, which is exclusive to the Death spell, is a different story.
      • With a Good Bad Bug in the Famicom version, it's possible to kill the Final Boss with a Level 1 instant-death spell. (He normally absorbs all non-attack elements, playing this straight.)
    • Final Fantasy IV has the Dark Elf, a challenging midgame boss, unless you cast Weak on him, which drops him to single digits. This weakness was removed in the remake.
      • Bosses are immune to most status effects, but not Slow. It's practically suicide to take on any boss past a certain level without casting Slow on them.
    • Many bosses in Final Fantasy V have at least one weakness to a crippling status effect or instant-death type spell. Additionally, you can use one of the Mix combinations to grant your characters the 'heavy' flag that gives enemies their Contractual Boss Immunity, protecting them from a wide range of nasty death attacks and status effects.
    • There's a glitch in early versions of Final Fantasy VI that can let you use instant death spells on bosses. There's still a boss vulnerable to X-Zone in recent versions, but he's supposed to be.
    • Though Odin's instant death attack can't hurt bosses in FFVI, its upgraded form Raiden has a chance to.
    • Odin's Zantetsuken in Final Fantasy VIII occurs randomly at a battle's start and will instantly kill the enemies unfortunate enough to get in its way, but when it occurs in a boss fight against Seifer, Odin himself gets killed.
    • Emerald WEAPON in Final Fantasy VII is strangely not immune to Gravity spells. While you still can't inflict more than 9999 damage in one hit, at least you have a way of reliably inflicting 9999 damage per hit for a while. Note that Emerald WEAPON has 1 million HP, so even at 9999 damage per hit it'll still take a while to wear it down.
    • On the other hand, Final Fantasy VIII has Selphie's hard-to-perform Limit Break "The End" works on bosses, including the final boss Ultimecia. Also, the boss Abadon, being a zombie, can be killed simply by tossing a Phoenix Down at it or casting Full-Life.
      • Averted in Final Fantasy VII during the caves of the Gi area as part of the main quest, the area boss Gi Nattak is vunerable to healing magic. A Phoenix down has a 1 in 4 chance of killing the boss, while an X-Potion which heals all life will instantly kill the boss. Two such potions can be found in the caves before the boss.
    • Final Fantasy X gives us Yojimbo, who can perform One Hit Kills on any enemy, be it random encounter, final boss (not that you need it), and all the bonus bosses with his Zanmato move. However, this requires either understanding a farcically complex mathematical formula, or giving him more than half your money. It's also averted with Evrae Altana, the zombified sequel to an infamous That One Boss, which can be taken down with a pair of Phoenix Downs; it's generally considered the easiest boss in the game.
      • Due to an oversight in the development process, Yu Yevon, the final boss was originally intended to be a Climax Boss (or at least a Puzzle Boss) but someone forgot to program in certain immunities (mainly Zombie and Doom. As a result, this fight is widely believed to be a Post Final Boss compared to Braska's Final Aeon.
    • Likewise, Final Fantasy XIII has Odin. In his Gestalt Mode, Lightning can use Zantetsuken. It does fairly low damage, but has an instant kill formula that ignores immunity to Instant Death, the effect triggers if the enemy's HP is lower than the result of the formula's solution. This of course requires quite a bit of beating first, making it a Useless Useful Spell, Cid Raines being a notable exception.
      • Also, only a few bosses are immune to all debuffs. Deprotect, Deshell and Imperil are very usual vulnerabilities: Deprotect and Deshell severely reduce the enemy's defence against physical and magic attacks, while Imperil lowers elemental defenses, reduces chain resistance and makes other debuffs more likely to stick. In the sequel, they're practically required for the DLC bosses. Played straight with Pain and Fog, as all bosses are immune to them.
      • Averted with Orphan's final form. It's not immune to Vanille's "Death" spell. It's a Shout-Out to SaGa (where you can kill God in one hit with a chainsaw).
  • Geno Whirl of Super Mario RPG does 9999 damage when done with a frame-precise timed hit. All enemies have less than that; the Final Boss has 8000 HP. Most bosses are immune to this attack, however, save for one.
  • AdventureQuest made a marathon Bonus Boss immune to elemental-resistance-shuffling after someone figured out that they could use a class ability that dealt percentage-based fire damage, and the monster's 1275% energy weakness, to one hit kill an Eldritch Abomination. It dealt billions of damage.
  • In Might & Magic X: Legacy, all Bosses have a special Passive Ability that is unique for Bosses; it grants them immunity to Immune to Lapse, Mana Surge, Sleep, Terror, Poison, Root, Push, and Stasis effects. (Basically, any attack that doesn't damage them directly won't work.)
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • You have The Dragon Kai Leng The first time you meet him, he runs away, the second time, you fight him, but every time his shield is taken down he runs off and recharges, no matter how powerful the gun you have. Even in his last appearance you can't just hit him with everything you have and just win, he has to be taken down in stages. In addition, Stasis will never work on him, even though he is unarmored.
    • At one point in the game (the Prothean Archives) you have to chase an enemy boss (Dr. Eva Core). While you and your teammates have an assortment of powers that should slow down or stop that boss enough for you to easily catch up, none of them have any effect.
  • Moraff's World and Dungeons of the Unforgiven (Roguelike RPG of approximately 1990) have the Holy/Nuclear Hand Grenade which instantly kills the monster. Usually. Bosses catch it and give it back to you. If you try any instant kill/disable spell - they say right away that it won't work.
  • The boss of Septerra Core was immune to insta-kill attacks and only flinched on high-power attacks. However, using the cloak spell prevented him from landing his one-hit party-kill attack against any party member.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne contains 5 elements for inflicting stats aliments (mind, nerve, death, expel and curse). that can all inflict various standard stats effects all but 2 bosses (Forneus, who comes before the first instant death spell and Troll, who is weak enough to be a miniboss at most) are immune to death/expel and all but a handful of early bosses null or strongly resist the other 3. Most of the instant kill effects do work well on various flunkies however.
    • Shin Megami Tensei is unusual for a JRPG in that only bosses are outright immune to instant kills and incapacitating spells. All other enemies will be vulnerable to at least some of them, and in a good number of cases outright weak, translating to "one cast, one kill" against those types of enemies. As far as general gameplay is concerned, instakills are definitely NOT Useless Useful Spells (Being MegaTen, simply "attack"ing a random counter is a good way to die). Also, stat debuffs definitely do work on bosses (and are seriously necessary in most cases).
    • In Persona 3 and Persona 4, instant kill spells return as Light and Dark magic. Some enemies can block either or both elements, but every boss is immune. This hits no-one harder than poor Naoto in Persona 4. Naoto specialises in Light, Dark and Almighty magic, which is great for mowing down large numbers of Mooks but utterly useless in boss fights. Persona 3 does offer a highly entertaining subversion though; the October full moon bosses can be, with some luck, locked into the "fear" status. The main character can create the persona "Mot" which at this point will absolutely learn the skill "Ghastly Wail" upon fusion. The skill destroys any enemy inflicted with "fear". Boom, Instant Kill!
    • Persona Q like the above has bosses immune to instant death but they can still be hit by most other status ailments. One really notable one is being hit with Panic which makes them unable to dodge, do anything other than basic attacks, and frequently target themselves. Binds can also lock up whatever the boss specializes in such as physical or magical attacks. While bosses tend to break out of these statuses quickly, they're also vulnerable to Stagnant Air which makes ailments last much longer.
    • The day 7 boss in Devil Survivor 2, Benetnasch, has a passive "Pacify Human". What this means is that your human player characters will not be able to scratch him, period, although your demon mons are not under such constraint.
    • The first Shin Megami Tensei game shows why this trope is in effect: bosses did not have blanket immunity to many status effects, so many otherwise difficult boss fights could be instantly trivialized by having your human party members open fire on the boss with Charm Bullets loaded in their guns. The bosses would then start beating on themselves.
    • Persona 2: Innocent Sin offers the fusion spell Armageddon, which kills anything including the final boss... except for the Bonus Boss. Try it out on him, and he'll smack you back with it. You have to grind like mad to get it, since you need both Lucifer and Satan personas to cast Armageddon and they're far higher level than you'd get just playing the game normally.
    • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the game offers a variety of conversation skills that allow you to make demons do things like give you items, healing, or money. All of them will, surprisingly enough, work on most bosses...except two particular skills, Scout (recruits an enemy demon) and Negotiate (makes enemy demons go away), because if they weren't, you could trivially end boss battles by bribing them until they agree to join you (although you can fuse most boss demons that you've defeated) or leave.
    • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse turns Light and Dark spells into standard-damage spells, with their One-Hit Kill properties only kicking in if the caster has Smirk status. While this does mean you can no longer insta-nuke mobs willy-nilly just by spamming Mahamaon and Mamudoon, this also means you can actually damage bosses with Light and Dark spells, and in fact some bosses are weak to either element. They're still immune to the Smirk instant-kill effect, however.
  • Bosses in World of Warcraft tend to be immune to incapacitating effects such as Polymorph, Interrupt and silence effects, and most notably stun effects. This is quite necessary, as if they weren't, every party would simply take as many rogues as possible to keep a boss stun-locked and incapable of doing anything. Similarly they're almost always immune to slow, to prevent them from being kited to death. There was a boss in The Burning Crusade whose movement speed was slow enough to allow kiting, and on heroic difficulty some people did indeed refrain from ever getting close to it.
    • Bosses are almost always immune to silence, and some of their spells cannot be interrupted, though others can be, and indeed interrupting them can be necessary. Lady Deathwhisper's is a good example with her interruptable frostbolt of Kill the Tank. The game is helpful enough to provide a shield around the cast bar of uninterruptable spells so people don't waste an spell. A few spells also simply have a different effect on them (most notably the Deep Freeze spell of Frost Mages). And they are fully vulnerable to attacks or spells that can only be used on targets with low health or do more damage in that case. Those skills typically kill of a normal enemy right away, but against a boss they are still valuable, especially against the kind of boss that is the most difficult at low health.
  • EverQuest introduced a number of these.
    • Many raid bosses in EverQuest were outright immune to spells that slowed their attack speed since such spells could reduce a monster's damage output by upwards of 60% or more. Notable examples for their time were Derakor the Vindicator and the Avatar of War, two end-game bosses in the Scars of Velious expansion that were notorious for their extremely high melee damage output.
      • Eventually, Sony began allowing slow spells to work on many bosses, but with limited effect. Casters would receive messages such as "Your slow spell is only partially effective."
    • Likewise, many bosses were immune to root spells which prevented them from moving, which forced raid parties to keep tighter control over where the boss was positioned. Most bosses also tended to summon their primary target to them if said target moved too far away.
    • Another unusual immunity many bosses were given led to a tactic referred to by players as "belly-casting." Many named enemies and bosses were completely immune to all spells unless they were cast at point-blank range (belly-to-belly with them). This was particularly cruel when you take into account that most of these bosses also use powerful point-blank area-effect attacks.
  • Mostly Averted in WildStar. Most status effects are resisted with Interrupt Armor. As long as an enemy has a layer of interrupt armor, they're immune to status effects. However, every status-inducing attack removes a layer of interrupt armor, allowing even bosses to eventually succumb to status effects with a coordinated effort. This is a major gameplay mechanic, as hitting an enemy with a status effect while they're casting an ability will interrupt the attack, and render the enemy helpless and doubly vulnerable to damage for longer than the duration of a normal status effect. Certain enemies will occasionally have infinite interrupt armor, making them immune to being interrupted. However, they will always conveniently become vulnerable to interruption just before using a particularly nasty attack.
  • Most bosses in the Dragon Quest series are immune to most or all status effects. Many of those that aren't immune to all of them can be made hugely easier by application of one they're not (For instance, a Troll King in Dragon Quest III can be made trivial by silencing him so he can't cast his attack-buff spell), and virtually none are immune to effects that directly decrease their stats — although a very rare few can nullify such effects after they're cast, for most bosses, these spells are outright essential — and even for the ones that can nullify them, they have to waste a round doing so.
  • Averted by, of all things, the Legacy Bosses in Dragon Quest IX. They're immune to almost every ailment and highly resistant to most stat-downs, but a few them are partially vulnerable (usually around a 25% chance of it successfully working) to certain ailments (though knowing what it is requires a guide.)
    • For that matter, Random Encounter enemies are rarely, if ever, immune to status effects, and like in Shin Megami Tensei, some of these can be very difficult, such that simply going "attack, attack, attack" is little more than a way to get yourself killed.
  • In Neverwinter Nights, it shows the results of the in-game die rolls on the game journal. It gets rather annoying when you see "Player casts Hold Person. Boss attempts Will save. Fail!" while the boss continues to attack.
    • Blackguard Aribeth, however, averts this by having no immunity to the spell Harm at all. This means that the entire boss fight can be resolved in twenty seconds or less if you brought along Linu as your companion, since Linu learns Harm automatically.
    • In Neverwinter Nights 2, particularly in Persistent Worlds, bosses may not be completely immune to instant death spells, but they have saves so high that they might as well. They will also typically have Improved Evasion with a high reflex save, making many spells useless against bosses.
  • In most Ys games, the Big Bad is immune to the Infinity+1 Sword.
  • In the Golden Sun games, bosses seem to be immune because of how the Luck stat works: Luck increases a creature's chances to resist status effects. Since every boss in the game has a Luck stat of around 50 (or higher), their resistance to these effects is extremely high. Some of the Djinn attacks are able to bypass the resistance, though (mainly the ones that work like a Silence effect).
  • In Xenoblade, the only thing bosses are universally immune to is instant death. You can lock down the final boss with a Break-Topple-Daze combo just like any of the other enemies you've used them on (though you might need a chain attack for the statuses to take hold).
  • Most bosses in the Tales Series are vulnerable to a few status ailments, but can't be hit with instant death in the games that have it.
    • Averted with All-Divides in Tales of Symphonia, items which cut the damage taken by both allies and enemies in half. It slows the fight down, but effectively doubles the power of all healing spells and turns even the most difficult battle into an easy (if long) one. Even That One Boss isn't immune. The Playstation remake would double subvert this by making Abyssian, the hardest boss in the game, immune to them.
    • Richter from Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World has an unusually specific case of this, as any attempts to hit him with Emil's Ain Soph Aur mystic arte will simply result in a No Sell and him countering with his own Eternal Recurrence mystic arte.
    • Same goes for Asch cancelling and countering Luke's Radiant Howl with his own Rending Saber mystic arte in Tales of the Abyss. You could still pull it off though launching it while Asch is airborne as a result of a nice combo.
    • The Fodra Queen from Tales of Graces f is vulnerable to almost every status ailment in the book while in her ranged attack mode. It doesn't stop her from being insanely difficult, however.
      • On the other hand, there's the Rockgagong, who's immune to time stopping effects and can't be hit with blast calibers; two immunities no other bosses in the game possess. However, it is vulnerable to artes with the "Chance of One-Hit Kill" property, though it requires you be at level 200.
    • Tales of Xillia 2 notably averts this almost entirely, with virtually every boss being susceptible to everything in the book save for instant death, though the duration tends to be shorter and in the case of damaging effects, they generally deal very little damage compared to normal enemies (Though there are notable exceptions). This includes even the Petrify status (Formerly available only to enemies), which makes them completely incapable of acting for a few seconds and with the right setup, you can lock them down almost indefinitely with it.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the "Showstopper" special move acts as an inexpensive, late-game one hit kill. However, all bosses (and even higher level enemies) are immune to this move except Bowser.
  • All bosses in Rogue Galaxy are immune to Burning Strikes, generally because they're too big to accommodate for their animations: since normal enemies go down too quickly to warrant using them and charging them up tends to take too long, they only really see any use against otherwise damage-resistant Mimics that don't respawn, which is a shame since most of them look pretty good.
  • In Odium, almost all bosses are immune to stun effects like the tranquilizer gun. Strangely, the final boss has no such immunity, and thus becomes ridiculously easy if you know this.
  • Most melee enemies in Fallout: New Vegas can be slowed by crippling their legs. Attempting this on the final boss has no noticeable effect. Also, the main boss and the 2 bonus bosses of Lonesome Road are completely immune to knockdown effects.
    • Hilariously averted in Old World Blues, as the Robotics Expert perk lets you shut down Dr. Mobius's Giant robo-scorpion the same as the smallest ones if you can stay in hiding. Unlike them, it will reactivate eventually, but if you stay in hiding all your attacks will be Sneak Attack Critical Hits; more than enough to kill it even though it's a Damage-Sponge Boss, especially if you brought a Proton Axe.
  • Hilariously inverted in Hyperdimension Neptunia V where Pirachu, the boss, can inflict the Virus status on your CPU party which takes away their HDD form. The thing is, your playable characters are locked in HDD throughout the entire fight.
  • In Black Isle RPG Icewind Dale, the final boss was flat out unaffected by any spell or other magical affect. He not only never took damage, he wouldn't even show the flinch animation if caught in an area effect burst, and when the characters and how they were effected by one spell or other was displayed at the bottom of the screen his name would be completely bypassed, unlike other enemies that had super magic resistance, like Iron Golems, which would display something like Iron Golem: Magic Resistance in response to being hit by a spell.
  • Strangely, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has Contractual Metal Slime Immunity, with Gold Beanies being completely immune to the Luiginary Flame Bros Attack. Strangely being that this is the ONLY creature immune to this attack, even bosses are affected. And only that ONE attack, the Gold Beanie is still somehow weak to all other Bros Attacks, all badge effects, secret boxes, gear effects and everything else.
  • Averted in Time and Eternity in that any boss (including the final boss) fought in the regular battle style can be affected by any status ailment that you can dish out using the in-game Chemistry mechanic. It's avoided in the "giant" battles simply because none of the player's attacks even inflict ailments.
  • Alpha Protocol:
    • Played straight with most major bosses. The big three (Brayko, Deng and Marburg) in particular can take multiple headshots, resist most gadgets, start out alerted to Mike's presence and stay that way making stealth useless.
    • Averted with most other minibosses, who despite having names and seemingly large health bars are still as vulnerable to gadgets, headshots or stealth attacks as any other mook.
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth has a status "Boss: Immune to stun, sleep, and pissed, just because." Additionally, each summon will tell you flat out that they refuse to go near bosses.
  • Child of Light averts this with negative statuses- every boss in the game is vulnerable to bad statuses like Slow and Paralyze, which can trivialize many boss fights. Played straight for moves with an instant-death chance, which will not trigger.
  • In the MOTHER series Bosses are generally vulnerable to at least one status ailment. Two of the most debilitating effects are paralysis (Which prevents the usage of anything other then PSI attacks in the first two games) and crying (Which greatly reduces the accuracy of non-PSI attacks), yet numerous bosses are susceptible to one or the other, which can trivialize an otherwise difficult fight. There are even some that are vulnerable to instant death like Thunder & Lightning or the King Pig Statue.
  • Played with in Etrian Odyssey: status effects besides instant death are only moderately less likely to work on FOEs and bosses than mooks, and are useful for doing things like wasting their turns, doing damage over time, or preventing them from using their most powerful attacks. However, status effects only last a few turns, and successfully applying one to a unit makes the unit more resistant to that status for about eight turns—applying the same effect twice is considerably harder than doing it once and it gets successively harder. In Legends of the Titan, the Arcanist has a spell that resets this resistance; it costs an extremely large amount of TP, but may still be worth it against particularly tough enemies.
  • The final boss of Jade Empire isn't immune to Focus mode, per se, but he is uniquely able to use it himself, acting normally (and making your movements extraordinarily sluggish if you don't use it). This is only to be expected since he taught it to you in the first place.
  • Pokémon:
    • In regards to bosses resisting statuses/One-Hit Kill attacks, the series averts this. Few boss characters have any Pokémon immune to One-Hit Kill attacks, with all such 'mons except one being usable by the playernote , and all bosses have to play by the same rules as the player regarding the series' Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors and Standard Status Effects. However, in all games but Colosseum and XD, you can't capture another Trainer's Pokémon and use it as your own — not even with the Master Ball. Even in the Orre games, you can only snag specific Shadow Pokémon.
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon plays this straight to a limited extent. The Abilities of cover legendaries Lunala and Solgaleo, Shadow Shield and Full Metal Body, are mostly copies of existing Abilities (Multiscale and Clear Body respectively). Necrozma, a legendary Pokémon thought to be related to them, comes with Prism Armor (which acts as a copy of Filter/Solid Rock). Unlike those Abilities, however, they aren't bypassed by traditional counter Abilities like Mold Breaker, Turboblaze, and Teravolt. Of course, those Abilities work the same way once you catch them.
    • While no boss Pokémon (wild or trained) is immune to statuses unless their type dictates it (e.g. Steel-types can't be poisoned), there are a few occasions where a player is completely unable to capture a wild Pokémon and has to defeat it:
      • In Pokémon Red and Blue (and their remakes), a Marowak ghost is fought in the Pokémon Tower. Any attempt to use a Poké Ball on it — even the Master Ball — will fail.
      • When facing Black/White Kyurem in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, Ghetsis' staff prevents the player from using Poké Balls, thus Kyurem must be knocked out (though it can be caught in its normal form later, after the main story is over).
      • During Pokémon Sun and Moon, UB-01 appears when visiting Aether Paradise. Despite being a powerful Ultra Beast at level 27, the entire island has a Poké Ball jammer that prevents people from using Poké Balls to capture Pokémon, you included. After becoming the Champion, however, you're able to catch UB-01/Nihilego without issue.
      • Also in Sun and Moon are the Totem Pokémon; regular Pokémon that are far larger, can summon other Pokémon to aid them, and come with an aura that gives them at least one Status Buff right at the start of the battle. You're prohibited from capturing Pokémon in the area until the Trial is complete, and the Totem Pokémon can't be rebattled afterwards.
  • Zigzagged in Summoners War: Sky Arena. Most bosses are immune to Stun, Freeze and Sleep effects (which are almost interchangeable anyway). However, they are not immune to other debuffs, most importantly Continuous Damage. Many late-game tactics for farming bosses involve stacking the Continuous Damage and watch as the boss' hp drains away magically. In fact, it is the only viable way to take out one of the weekly bosses.
  • During boss fights in Radia Senki Reimeihen, the game won't let you use offensive Techs and items.
  • In Skyrim, Miraak and Kaarstag are immune to the insta-kill chance of Mehrunes' Razor. Anything else is fair game, though, up to and including Alduin.

  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn plays a variation; in the GDI campaign, the Temple of Nod has way more HP than can be taken off with a shot from the Ion Cannon, and repairs fast enough to be at full strength by the time it recharges. You have to breach Nod's defenses and damage it normally before you can obliterate it with the Ion Cannon. The rest of the series usually makes sure you can't knock out the superweapon building or construction yard with only one superweapon attack, but the rest of the base used to power these weapons are usually fair game.
    • Tiberian Sun's expansion Firestorm had a curious glitch in the last mission of the game. While a single Ion Cannon blast won't destroy the mission objective, it can destroy the firestorm generator protecting it. Doing so bypasses the entire sidequest of having to capture the relay stations to shut the core off. In addition, while the Core Defender is resistant to all attacks, it was still programmed as a base land unit, so if you destroyed the bridge it was on while it was over water, it just dies due to the game not knowing what to do with a unit dropped into water.
  • In the Turn-Based Strategy game Luminous Arc 2, anyone that is equipped with the Auto-Medic Lapis is completely immune to status ailments. Most, if not all, bosses are equipped with Auto-Medic. The player can win Auto-Medic Lapis as well, allowing your characters to get in on the fun.
  • Cyrus in the Dawn of War II campaign gains an ability to use his sniper rifle to instantly kill any infantry unit. While it makes sense that it doesn't work on vehicles or Monstrous creatures like Carnifexes, it makes less sense that it doesn't work against bosses which are just more powerful infantry units (though it does do a lot more damage than his regular attack). Bosses are also immune to stun and knockback effects in the Dawn of War II campaign, making it impossible to disrupt them; this is removed in the expansion Chaos Rising, where most bosses, particularly infantry, can be stunned and knocked around at your leisure.
  • The final four bosses in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn all come equipped with either the Nihil or Mantle skills, which prevents attacking units from using their own skills against the boss (and in Mantle's case, Critical Hits). This is mainly to prevent them from being quickly dispatched by the Mastery Skills, many of which can reach ridiculous amounts of damage when used by a high-level character with an SS weapon. The majority of other bosses are still vulnerable to them, however, and the player even gets a few Nihil scrolls of their own.
    • Assassins, in the games that have the class, are able to randomly kill their opponent instantly, even if the attack would otherwise have dealt 0 damage. In the GBA games everything but the final boss is fair game to be assassinated, but as of Path of Radiance, all enemies classified as bosses have contracted the immunity.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, some bosses are immune to standard status effects, especially petrify and instant death. This is indeed justified, because usually the objective of the battle is to kill them, and if they weren't immune the player could win the battle in the first turn.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, bosses and some leaders of enemy armies usually have ribbons marked by their names. Said ribbons make them immune to the laws that are constantly hounding your own characters (and any enemies without ribbons by their names). Characters who break the laws badly enough are carted off to jail - a "mission failed" scenario if it happens to main character Marche - and enemies without ribbons will never deliberately break the laws. But thanks to the ribbons, bosses can (and will) do anything they want without penalty.
  • All final bosses in Super Robot Wars get the "All-Canceller" ability, rendering them immune to Standard Status Effects and Damage Increasing Debuffs. Lesser bosses may have this immunity too, or a lesser protection against certain effects. Thing is, they are not protected against a certain pilot skill that bypasses all defenses, including those immunities. This comes to a head mostly in the Original Generation games, where it is much easier to put an immunity-bypassing pilot into any mech with status-inflicting weapons.
  • The Super Agents in Evil Genius are capable of steamrolling entire hordes of your goons, and what's worse, they cannot be permanently defeated by any amount of conventional firepower or traps. They can only be knocked out and imprisoned in a holding cell. (And if you do that, torture won't make them talk or break them in the least.) With the exception of the British agent John Steele who cannot be permanently defeated at all, all Super Agents must be defeated by completing highly specific optional objectives. However, once you succeed at these objectives, the Super Agent is removed from the game and never returns to pester you again. For example, the Russian agent Katarina is defeated by forcing her to watch as you mangle her childhood teddy bear, and the Chinese agent Jet Chan is defeated by arranging him to be humiliatingly curbstomped in a rigged sparring match. Oh, and that bit about John Steele being unbeatable? It's a Red Herring; he can be beaten, but the game itself doesn't specify it. You can actually beat him by holding him in prison until the final mission, where you launch him into space on a rocket.
  • In the final mission of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Kerrigan only takes up at 10 damage points from any single attack, even a shot from a Wave Motion Gun or a nuclear blast. Hence the only way to kill her is, ironically, rush her with a ton of marines. And even then she respawns.
  • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the final boss is flat out immune to Mind Control, even if you somehow manage to overcome his terrifyingly high Will.
    • Averted with games' true one turn map clearing device - a sniper with archangel armour and, optionally, doubletap skill. A pair of such can take out the final boss the turn he appears with no sweat, provided player is careful enough to place them right beforehand, or knows about the boss.
  • In Napoleon: Total Wars main campaign, Napoleon himself cannot be killed. Assassinating him is near impossible even with a good assassin, and even if you succeed, it just puts him out of action for a few months.
  • The Hero units in Clash of Clans such as Barbarian King and Archer Queen are not affected by the One-Hit Kill Spring Traps nor do they take as much damage from a Poison Spell as they do against regular troops.

  • Some games, usually on-rails shooters like Star Fox, have area-effect attacks designed to destroy all on-screen enemies, but will only cause a comparatively large amount of damage to bosses.
    • Most Star Fox 1 and Star Fox 64 mooks will die if you shoot them anywhere, and the rest usually die with only a few shots. Bosses, on the other hand, are usually invulnerable to laser shots and nova bombs, except for their easily-identified glowing weak spots. The bombs ARE the weakness for the first fight with Star Fox's Great Commander at Venom, and it's just a matter of timing it with when the cannons are open. However, the sequel does not impart nearly as much damage to bosses with nova bombs, and Star Wolf's advanced ships can even deflect them with barrel rolls.
    • Inverted with 64's Zoness boss, who is immune to regular shots and can only take damage from bombs.
  • It's very common for Bullet Hell shooters to have the Bonus Bosses and/or True Final Bosses become invincible when the player bombs, taking no damage from the bomb or any of the players shots until the effect of the bomb ends. Generally, a barrier of some sort will be placed around the boss to show when this is occurring, although other things have been known to occur to indicate that the boss simply is not taking any damage (for example in ESP.Ra.De the boss literally leaves the screen). Sometimes the standard Final Boss gets this type of invincibility as well when they're on their final pattern. Cave and Touhou games are prime examples of this.
  • A few weapons in the PS2 Ratchet & Clank games. The Zodiac and RYNOCIRATOR are one-hit weapons against normal opponents, but take off very little if any HP from bosses.

  • In Assassin's Creed II all generic enemies are vulnerable to your Hidden Blade (and in particular to being counter killed), but the penultimate and final boss are conveniently immune.
    • Also played straight in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood: In addition to breaking free of grabs, the Kung Fu Proof Mooks and mini-bosses also can dodge or outright block counters; the final boss can as well. (There are two more story targets, but they're not so much bosses as "guys you have to kill without being detected, or mission failed.")
    • Averted in the first Assassin's Creed, where every boss, including the Made of Iron penultimate boss and the otherwise highly scripted final fight, can be instantly killed with the hidden blade counter.
  • In Metal Gear, you can't break bosses' necks, nor can you slit their throats, and the KO is just minor incapacitation.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3 you can't shoot an unconscious Ocelot and create a time paradox.
  • In Batman: Arkham City : The bosses in the Catwoman and Harley Quinn's Revenge DLC episodes have health bars. The player must drain them with attacks that would often knock out a henchman, even though the bosses have no physiological differences with their mooks.
    • Mr. Freeze is also an interesting example. He isn't immune to your best attacks initially, but adapts after you use them on him once.
    • However in Batman: Arkham Knight Two-Face comes in with an Elite Mook army and can be taken down as easily as anyone else, and at any time.
  • In Dishonored, any character empowered directly by the Outsider is largely immune to Bend Time, Possession, or Windblast. They also can't be killed by most otherwise one-hit-kill attacks, including fatalities, fire darts, or spring razor traps. You can still backstab them, though.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Makes this into a core game mechanic. In addition to various weaknesses, Officers also have varying strengths, which can make them immune to anything from combat finishers to arrows, requiring alternate methods to kill them or using their Kryptonite Factor. The trope is Subverted with captains weak to stealth attacks/combat finishers/arrows, Downplayed if they have no weakness or immunities (as they take damage as opposed to instant death like with mooks), and played straight if they are immune.

    Survival Horror 
  • Resident Evil
    • In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Nemesis is encountered seven times, and no matter what Jill does to defeat him, he won't die, or even stay down long, the first six times. He can only be killed permanently the seventh time, in the Final Battle.
    • Averted in Resident Evil 4; the P.R.L. 421 kills all bosses just as effectively as everything else, though some bosses take more than one hit because of how the fight is scripted or because their weak points need to be exposed first.
  • In Galerians, the psychic protagonist can instantly explodes the heads of ordinary enemies when his powers overload, but it doesn't work on other psychics. And most of the bosses are psychics.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • The mechanics of the Grand Theft Auto games usually avert this by allowing anyone to be killed during gameplay (but may give you a Mission Failed if you kill them before their plot-driven death/wasted moment). Usual methods for killing mission targets include shooting their car until it explodes or running them off the road and carjacking them. However, there are rare instances in the series where key targets resist these methods. Occasionally, a target's vehicle may be invincible to damage and/or have locked doors. The most egregious offenders behave as an unstoppable force, knocking heavy semi-trucks off the road as if they were made of styrofoam in order to follow a scripted path.
    • All enemy NPC's in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City follow standard mortality rules except for three bosses. Ricardo Diaz, Lance Vance, and Sonny Forelli are the only enemies who cannot be instantly killed with a headshot.
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas averts this with Tenpenny by having him only appear in cutscenes, presumably so no clever player could kill him before he's supposed to die (also in a cutscene). During the one mission where he is in gameplay, his fire truck is invincible and follows a pre-determined path.
  • In Minecraft boss mobs are immune to all negative potion effects, but can still be damaged by snowballs and chicken eggs of all things.
  • The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, during the final segment of the game when the player is chasing the Abomination, and is meant to fight him at set locations when he stops, which is signaled when his lifebar appears. It's possible to catch up to him before that, but the he can't actually be damaged until his lifebar appears.
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla subverts this. The final boss is important in-story, but in-game he's just a man in a tank, as vulnerable to your instant-kill Arc Welder or Rail Driver as anyone else. Of course, there is a mountain full of EDF between you and him...
  • Traps in Dwarf Fortress are a vital part of any fortress's defense system; cage traps in particular amount to a One-Hit Kill against anything that triggers them. However, creatures with the [TRAPAVOID] tag will never trigger a trap while they're standing. In vanilla, this includes kobolds and gremlins, but also titans, forgotten beasts, werecreatures in their creature form, and the demons unleashed by Digging Too Deep. Subverted when you realize that you really only have to build a slightly more elaborate trap, because trapavoiders will never trigger a trap while they're standing.
    • A more straight example happens in the case of offensive drawbridge use, AKA the famous "Dwarven Atom Smasher". If the creature you wish to kill is too large, the drawbridge will either refuse to raise with them on it, or shatter harmlessly against their heads.
  • The final boss in inFAMOUS has this in spades. On easy mode all your attacks work, and he can be beaten quickly, and on normal mode your strongest doesn't work, but he can still be killed easily. On the Nintendo Hard mode? At least one of your skills will be below maximum level (assuming you chose an option to get a ton of XP), and all but your NORMAL ZAP and one (relatively weak) evil move work on him. Considering the sheer number of ways he can one hit you if you're at less than full health? Painful fight to say the least. Can take over an hour, not counting the inevitable dozens of retries.
  • The end boss in [PROTOTYPE 2] has a bad case of this - he cycles between being immune to each of your five attack types without warning, and doesn't let the player fly around or consume lesser enemies in a game based on using mobility and healing breaks and stealth.

     Game Shows 
  • Many Who Wants to Be "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" type game shows prevent the contestant from using their respective lifelines on the final question or task. Example: on The Cube, you can't use your Simplify or Trial Run on your final task. This, of course, is necessary not only because the show wants the contestant to earn their prize, but also because the networks can't afford to give away six or seven-figure payouts for every contestant.
    • On the other hand, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? itself usually inverted this rule because their million dollar questions are that difficult and often obscure. Given that in the current U.S. version, the contestants' lifelines are Ask the Audience and two copies of Skip the Question, one can assume that only Ask the Audience would be allowed at a high enough money question, depending on if any of the Skips are still available.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • This trope can often be up to the Game Master, depending on their adherence to the game rules. If the PC's figure out a way to kill off the Big Bad too early in the fight (or earlier in the story than they're meant to), they may magically develop immunity to whatever clever thing the PC's came up with. Though of course if the GM was duly impressed with the player's cleverness and ingenuity, they may avert it (and then have to scramble to fix the plot or prolong the final epic battle, depending).
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Golems are flat-out immune to spells that allow spell resistance unless otherwise stated, and even then, it usually either slows it or heals/hastes it. Oh, and we can't forget epic-level golems! The Mithral Golem is only DE-HASTED by an actual slow spell, and the Adamantine Golem is straight-up immune to everything (most epic monsters have a ton of immunities on their own). Even this, though, doesn't stop creative wizards who can bypass the immunities by not targeting the golem itself. Image-creating illusions like silent image (mindless creatures don't have the reasoning capacity to disregard out of hand the river dancing gnolls that just appeared), buffing the meatshield, and simply "greater invisibility"ing past them are all accepted methods to defeat golems.
    • Any wizard can bypass SR if they're properly prepared, and there's a ton of spells that ignore SR anyways. But those tricks will not affect the Golem's immunity, which works off the original text. And in 3.0, Golems were flat out immune to ANY SPELL not listed in their entry, even new invented spells.
    • There's also the psion-killer (psions basically being wizards using MP instead of Vancian Magic), a golem specifically designed, as one might infer, to kill psions (and by extension wizards/sorcerers).
    • "Thrice-cursed Spell Resistance! It's almost like the universe is trying to deliberately force some form of arbitrary equality between those of us who can reshape matter with our thoughts and those who cannot."
    • Fourth Edition largely averts this by not having a lot of potential instant-kill tricks in the first place. Elite and solo monsters will be tougher than standard ones (to say nothing of minions) and may take less damage from some attacks, but outright immunities to things player characters are likely to use often are relatively uncommon and conditions can be inflicted on these creatures as normal.
    • In the Fourth Edition Monster Manual 3, Lolth (the evil goddess of the drow) is given updated stats (she also appears on the cover). A sidebar describes an ability that Lolth and all actual deities have called Divine Discorporation which means that it is possible for them to be defeated (even by mortals, though unlikely) but very hard to actually kill. If they are in danger of dying, this ability activates automatically, reducing the god's body to an incorporeal state that cannot be harmed, which reforms into his or her true body in anywhere from a few months to a few years. The only way to truly kill a god is to somehow neutralize this ability, and it can only be done by a method unique to each deity. (The book gives three suggestions for Lolth; apparently, such a method is supposed to be some Impossible Task similar to what is needed to destroy an artifact.)
  • Paranoia gives certain NPCs "GM fiat armor" as shorthand for "beating this guy would really mess up the plot, so whatever the PCs try, contrive some excuse for it to fail".
  • Feng Shui has this built into the system. Enemies are divided into two tiers: Mooks and 'Named Characters'. Named characters (which include the Player Characters, The Dragon, The Big Bad, and other bosses) have Hit Points and are resistant or flat-out immune to many effects that instantly fell Mooks.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the Eternal Warrior rule, which renders models with it immune to Instant Death. This basically exists to stop expensive and powerful characters from being one-shot by a lucky Lascannon hit even if their Toughness isn't that good.

Non-video game examples:

  • In the Inheritance Cycle's third book Brisingr, Eragon tries to kill the Ra'zacs' parents with all of his instant-death spells in sequence, phrasing them in his incantation as a series of processes he can cancel. He quickly discovers Galbatorix has shielded them from those spells, so he kills the spell and tries blinding them with magic, which works.

    Western Animation 
  • Changelings and Stalklings - unlike most Trolls in Trollhunters - are immune to sunlight. Luckily, so is Jim.