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[[quoteright:315:[[Film/TheBluesBrothers http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/critexistfailure-bluesbros_543.png]]]]

->''"It doesn't matter how much health you have. It's just... Are you dead yet? Are you dead or are you alive? If you are alive, continue fighting. If you are dead, retry."''
-->-- '''LetsPlay/KungFuJesus'''; ''LetsPlay VideoGame/GodHand'' [[http://lparchive.org/LetsPlay/GodHand/]]

Video game characters on average are [[SuperToughness incredibly tough]]. No matter how much you get hurt or what it is that's doing the damage, the worst you'll show for it is [[ShowsDamage blood decals on your suit]]. You laugh as UniversalPoison does five points of damage per step, you shrug off the flying chainsaw robots [[OverdrawnAtTheBloodBank using your blood to make abstract art]] like nothing, and you're perfectly fine as long as you have at least one {{Hit Point|s}} left. However, if something removes that last point, even if it was [[ScratchDamage an apple falling on your head]], it will cause you to experience Critical Existence Failure and keel over like you had a [[Manga/DeathNote sudden inexplicable heart attack]].

Those subject to this seem to be held together more by their life force than anything tangible, as the act of dying instantly makes them as durable as wet tissue paper in a blender.

Most of this is a [[AcceptableBreaksFromReality function of fair gameplay]], especially in fighting games where making a character weaker over time would just [[UnstableEquilibrium make them progressively more vulnerable and susceptible to damage]]. Of course, that doesn't make CherryTapping any less painful. It also allows [[ViolationOfCommonSense certain tactics]] that would be downright crazy in RealLife to work in the game (e.g. using explosions for a makeshift {{rocket jump}} because you have enough HP to survive the explosion, bunny-hopping to reduce total damage taken, or running into suppressing fire to either act as a shield for the guys behind you or just get close enough to use a OneHitKill weapon).

This could have a flimsy justification for armoured vehicles -- anything which doesn't penetrate its armour arguably would not adversely affect its performance. (The same principle also applies to DeflectorShields.) However, because of the simplified nature of damage calculations, it's entirely possible for, say, an armored vehicle to sustain an anti-tank missile to its unarmored back and still keep fighting with a few HitPoints remaining, when in RealLife it would easily [[SubsystemDamage cripple the vehicle]] and/or kill the occupants in the process.

CriticalAnnoyance often indicates the imminence of this trope, much to the irritation of the player's eyes and/or ears.

If Critical Existence Failure is ''always'' a danger, regardless of the attack, the character is a OneHitPointWonder. On the other hand, if it doesn't occur immediately upon zero HitPoints, but waits for just one more hit to land, then the owner possesses a LastChanceHitPoint.

Has some overlap with DeathOfAThousandCuts and NoKillLikeOverkill, since any attack that inflicts even ScratchDamage can ultimately land a KO.

Compare ExactTimeToFailure, for more general examples of unrealistically sudden transitions from "perfectly OK" to "totally dead"; NoOntologicalInertia; and StrongFleshWeakSteel. Contrast the ChunkySalsaRule; DidntNeedThoseAnyway; and SubsystemDamage, where losing HitPoints does adversely affect the owner's ability to fight back. See also AttackAttackAttack, which this trope can encourage or at least give the appearance of; and TheLastStraw, when a proverbial straw breaks the camel's back.

''If you are looking for the trope about having one's existence entirely erased from the time-space continuum, try RetGone. Also not to be confused with AuthorExistenceFailure.''

'''Given that this is nearly a {{Universal Trope|s}}, only aversions and notable examples go here.'''

!!Aversions, inversions, subversions and notable examples

* CriticalExistenceFailure/BoardGames
* CriticalExistenceFailure/CardGames
* CriticalExistenceFailure/{{Film}}
* CriticalExistenceFailure/{{Literature}}
* CriticalExistenceFailure/LiveActionTV
* CriticalExistenceFailure/ProfessionalWrestling
* CriticalExistenceFailure/{{Roleplay}}
* CriticalExistenceFailure/TabletopGames
* CriticalExistenceFailure/VideoGames
* CriticalExistenceFailure/WebAnimation
* CriticalExistenceFailure/{{Webcomics}}


[[folder: Anime & Manga]]
* Parodied in ''Manga/{{Gintama}}'' when the characters find themselves inside a JRPG. Hijikata, perfectly sound albeit having just 1 HP due to a game glitch, [[ScratchDamage slightly bumps his foot into a wooden sign]] and instantaneously drops dead, complete with a coffin.
* Taken to extremes in ''Anime/SwordArtOnline'' during the Aincrad arc: players will remain alive so long as they don't die in the game, but after their HP reaches 0, the moment their avatar vanishes, the player will be hit with a high-powered microwave pulse to their brain, killing them instantly.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In Fanfic/CoOpMode, James averts this by a hair on the very first chapter by being [[CrashIntoHello saved by Taylor]].