"Get close enough to death, and you will become Death himself."The heroic counterpart to enemies Turning Red. Not only do Video Games tend to neglect the hindering effect of non-lethal injuries during combat, sometimes the character's Heroic Resolve effectively creates an automatic Status Buff as they approach Critical Existence Failure. This gives the player one last chance to dramatically turn the battle around, at the obvious risk of losing the battle entirely should they continue to take hits. Sometimes this is an ability inherent to the character, other times it is granted through the use (or acquisition) of special items or equipment. In any case, a Critical Status Buff triggers automatically when the user's HP decreases to low levels, though whether or not the status boost remains in effect after the character has been healed varies from game to game. If the benefits of this status are powerful enough, they can be the key to many a Self-Imposed Challenge, especially the Low Level Run. In low-level games (and similar challenges) in many RPGs, monsters in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon are often powerful enough to KO a party member in one or two hits anyway, so if the player is already relying more on "Revive" than "Heal" spells, there's little practical difference between whether said character is at full health or not, and a Genre Savvy player may as well exploit this status while they can. Also note that maintaining critical status for prolonged time can be difficult if the game refills the player's HP at regular intervals (such as after every fight). Super Trope to the Limit Break and Desperation Attack, which are active skills and attacks. Compare Comeback Mechanic, which applies specifically to multiplayer, and Rubber Band AI. Contrast Injured Vulnerability, where being in a critical condition adds extra weaknesses.
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- Metal Gear: Main characters gain a slight defense boost at critical HP. They can also regenerate health by crouching and resting, but only as long as their HP is critical.
- A pair of magic rings in The Legend of Zelda Oracle games re-enables Sword Beams (that normally only work when at full health) when health drops below 2 or 3 hearts.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap has a learnable ability that does the same when down to one heart.
- The Whore of Babylon item in The Binding of Isaac, which boosts the player's damage output when critically wounded. Eve starts with it, but ??? gets the most benefit if he finds it, since his inability to regenerate health is treated by the game as being permanently in critical condition.
Beat Em Up
- Dragon's Crown has the Adrenaline passive skill of the Amazon, which increases her damage the lower her current HP is.
- In one Fighting Game adaptation of Beast Wars ("Beast Wars Transmetals"), the amount of time required to charge a character's Limit Break decreases as they take damage, allowing an injured character to unleash them more frequently than a healthy opponent.
- One skill in SoulCalibur IV is "Will power", a passive ability that boosts a character's attack power when low on HP.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Lucario's attacks become stronger (and hit more easily) as his damage increases.
- Another example occurs in the fourth installment as a gameplay mechanic called Rage. With Rage, the more you're damaged, the more knockback you deliver. This can be both good and bad, as higher knockback means both easier K Os and combos that are harder to pull off.
- In the BlazBlue series, after losing enough health your character's heat gauge, which allows them to perform special attacks, will start filling automatically. Though, this also applies to your opponent.
- In Chronophantasma, overdrives last longer the lower on health you are.
- Tekken 6 introduced a Rage System, in which the user gains an attack boost at 5% of their health, while their limbs Turn Red. The tag spin-offs do something similar based on Relation Ship Values between the tag team.
- Painwheel from Skullgirls is built around her chargeable attacks. She still takes damage while charging, but she's Immune to Flinching, encouraging risky play. Two of her super moves work better with low health; the Hatred Install makes her attacks more powerful and lasts longer the lower her health is, and the Buer Overdrive returns all the damage she took while charging attacks. With the two combined, she can deal nearly twice the damage she took in one attack.
- Persona 4: Arena and its sequel have the Awakening state, which starts after dropping below 3/8 of your health. After entering it, your character gains 50 SP and increases his maximum by the same amount, gets a significant defense boost, and unlocks his most powerful SP Skills.
- In some SNK games like The King of Fighters, players are offered different styles or "Grooves" that change how special bars behave. One of these styles allows for Super moves to be used without spending the special bar if the character has a 4th of their life left. And another one makes the bar smaller every time you lose a character (King of Fighters is played in teams of 3), meaning that if you are in your last character you can charge it almost immediately. Spam ensues.
First Person Shooter
- Team Fortress 2:
- When the Equalizer, an alternate melee weapon (a pickaxe) for the Soldier, was introduced, it boosted the Soldier's attack power and speed depending on how much his HP was lowered. The Pyromania Update in Spring 2012 reskinned the Equalizer and limited its effects to damage only, while simultaneously introducing a carbon-copy of the original Equalizer called the Escape Plan that sacrificed the attack upgrades for the speed ones (then later also had to deal with taking mini-crits when the weapon was out). Anyone who owned the Equalizer during the update got the convenience of a free Escape Plan for each Equalizer that they owned.
- One of the Sniper's unlockable melee weapons, the Shahanshah, inflicts 25% extra damage if the sniper's HP is below half. This example also inverts the trope when balancing the weapon as it deals 25% less damage when the user is above half health.
- The multi-class findable secondary weapon: the Panic Attack, plays with and inverts this trope, it functions by having the player load up their shots into the clip, and firing them in quick succession after releasing the trigger, with considerably faster, but less accurate shots the lower the user's health. This mechanic forces players to consider what state they need to be in, and the method of approach depending on their current state, making it also Difficult but Awesome when skilled players can quickly take down most enemies by ambushing them at low health and point blank.
- Borderlands 2 has various skills that involve increasing certain stats as health lowers. Most notably is Krieg, who has a skill tree more or less focused on this trope. Specifically, he gains various buffs as he takes damage, particularly once his shields are down. He can even gain a few Desperation Attacks that either let him toss dynamite when his health hits 0 or even transform into a Badass Psycho when triggering his action skill at 1/3 of his health. In addition there are a number of shields that do things like give health regeneration or melee damage whenever they're completely depleted.
- Payday 2 has the Berserker skill and the Yakuza perk deck; Berserker increases melee damage by 250% when under a quarter health, and the aced version doubles ranged damage as well. The Yakuza deck gives faster armor regen and movement speed when under half health.
- World of Warcraft: Affliction warlocks get a healing bonus to their Life Drain when at 25% health or lower; subtlety rogues have Cheat Death, which gives them a Last Chance Hit Point and massively reduces damage taken for three seconds.
- Blood Fury, one of the Orc racial abilities, used to grant more power the lower your health when you used it.
- Mists of Pandaria introduced several class abilities which activate only when the player is low on health, granting additional stats or health as a final resort.
- The Cunning specialisation for Hunter pets - usually used for PvP - grants the Cornered ability, reducing chance to be critted and increasing damage by a massive 50%. In Warlords of Draenor, even non-cunning pets can gain it.
- In Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, the "Soul" class of shields features an ability that provides an increasing defense boost as the wearer's HP decreases. There is also "Reversal", a Desperation Attack.
- Chrono Trigger: A variation. Magus' Doom Scythe does more damage when teammates are dead.
- Dark Souls has the Red and Blue Tearstone Rings, which grant their user a whopping 50% increase in damage and defence respectively when their health drops below 20%. The latter is less practical than the former due to the near-complete lack of health, limiting its benefits.
- Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories: Some abilities activate at less than 25% HP, such as the male ninja, which gains such a large evasion bonus that they can become nigh-impossible to hit.
- Dragon Quest IX: A handful of abilities work like this, notably a Minstrel buff that "raises evasiveness in a pinch".
- Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas: The "Nerd Rage!" perk maxes out strength and gives a sizable boost to damage resistance when your health is less than 25% of max.
- Fallout 3 has the Nuclear Anomaly perk, which causes you to detonate in a mushroom cloud the instant your health drops below 20. The only reason it doesn't count as a Desperation Attack is because it triggers automatically and cannot be controlled, causing you to erupt every ten seconds while your health stays below 20. On the other hand, it also straddles uselessness by the fact that not only it activates when you are about to die anyway, the explosion damages allies, your armor and due to a bug, it kills you on Normal difficulty and above.
- Fallout: New Vegas has the Hot-Blooded trait, which gives you a 10% damage bonus at <50% health, but docks 2 points from your Agility and Perception in this state.
- Final Fantasy has several examples:
- In a few games, some equipment can activate Protect, Shell, or Haste buffs automatically when the user's HP drops to critical levels.
- The Mystic Knight job in Final Fantasy V has the Barrier passive ability which causes the character to automatically cast Shell on himself when put into critical health.
- In Final Fantasy VI, when a party member's HP is in critical status, there's a very small chance that their normal attack will be a special powerful attack instead. However, this is so rare that most players have never seen it while playing. Also fairly common is abuse of the Thief Knife, which grants bonus damage based on missing HP.
- Final Fantasy VII has the Final Attack support materia, which casts the linked materia when the character equipping it is killed — pairing it with the "Revive" or "Phoenix" materia results in an Auto-Revive.
- Final Fantasy VIII's Limit Breaks activate at random, with a greater chance of occuring if their HP is low or if the character is suffering from negative status effects.
- Final Fantasy X contains "SOS" equipment that can grant powerful status boosts while your character is below half of their maximum HP. Since some characters have odd-numbered hit point totals and a Phoenix Down revives your character at half health (rounding down), a clever player of the game's more brutal Self Imposed Challenges can double a character's speed almost all the time.
- Final Fantasy X-2 has the Cat Nip, an accessory found in the Bonus Dungeon. If you go critical while having it equipped, all your attacks will do 9999 damage. Pair this with the "Trigger Happy" skill, and you get a Game Breaker that can take out even most Bonus Dungeon Bosses in one hit.
- Final Fantasy XII has a set of abilities on its License board to boost the user's Defense, Attack, and/or Magic when their HP reaches critical levels. (Some bosses have these abilities too.) There are also inverse abilities granting Attack or Magic boosts any time the user is at full HP.
- The "Sentinel" class in Final Fantasy XIII has a passive ability called Deathward, which boosts their status when their HP drops under 25%.
- Final Fantasy Tactics has abilities to grant a character things like Regen, Reraise, or Haste when their HP is critical.
- Fire Emblem Fates:
- Kingdom Hearts:
- "Defender" increases defense at critical HP, "Berserker/Striker" increases attack power, "Damage Control" halves damage taken, and "Grand Slam" boosts critical hit rate.
- 358/2 Days includes limit breaks. These allow you to enter a superpowered frenzy when you are low on health. If your health gets especially low, you can perform multiple limit breaks in a row. In order to prevent this from being completely overpowered, the health threshold required to use a limit break gets lower and lower the more it's used, although it can be brought back up with items.
- In The Legend of Dragoon, Haschel's most powerful weapon (the "Violent Mace") deals more damage the lower his HP is.
- In Legaia 2: Duel Saga, certain equipment contains abilities that link a character's atack and/or defense powers to their current HP (directly or inversely). "Reverse-HP" and "Reverse-HP Defense", for example, provide greater effects at low HP. Each character also posesses a secret "Mystic Art" technique that can only be performed at less than half HP.
- In Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, Guy gains two Titles granting Critical Status Buffs: one that increases his damage output the lower his HP gets, and another that raises his Critical Hit rate if he's the last party member standing.
- Monster Hunter has the "Adrenaline" skill which functions as a stat boost, either defense (+1) or attack (+2), when the player's character's HP drops below a certain point.
- Paper Mario 64 and its sequel The Thousand Year Door: Quite a few badges give these kinds of abilities, such as attack, defense, and evasiveness boosts when Mario is in the "Danger" state (5 HP or less). There is also an NPC in both games who you can pay to increase one stat at the cost of decreasing another. The very popular "Danger Mario" build involves using this NPC to lower Mario's maximum HP to 5, making him permanently in the "Danger" state, and then piling on as many of these badges as possible to turn Mario into an invincible powerhouse.
- There are also badges that give even bigger boosts when Mario is in the "Peril" state (1 HP). However you can't lower Mario's maximum HP below 5, so the "Peril Mario" build doesn't see as much use.
- Pokémon Aside from Desperation Attacks like "Flail", "Reversal", and "Endeavor" (which inflict more damage at lower HP), several Pokemon species have passive abilities ("Blaze", "Torrent", "Overgrow", etc.) that boost attacks of a particular elemental type when the user is low on HP. There are also Berries that yield automatic status boosts when the user's HP becomes low.
- Inverted in B/W by the ability Defeatist, which lowers your stats when HP is less than half.
- In the Pokémon Ranger spinoff series, "latent power" boosts the Styler's attack power' when low on HP.
- Super Robot Wars has the pilot skill "Prevail", which increases accuracy, defense and evasion stats as hit points for their respective unit decrease. Every game has it, and so does every pilot (including bosses).
- In The World Ends with You, various clothing items feature status boosts that activate at low HP — the "Lapin Angelique Suicidal Special" combines said clothes with pins that put the user in critical status from the start of battle.
- In Bastion, the Werewhiskey tonic raises critical chance to 100% whenever the Kid drops below 33% health. Might as well make the most of it, right?
- Path of Exile has the Low Life condition, which is used to trigger passive skills such as Pain Attunement (which gives a large boost to spell damage when at low life) or the properties of unique items (Wondertrap is a set of boots that give an enormous boost to rare item drop rates at low life).
- A few of the Personal Skills in Wild AR Ms 3 only trigger when that party member is knocked into a critical health state. These are prefaced with 'SOS' for easy recognition. Said skills can include buffs to critical hit chance, reflexes, or even having them immediately cast every character buff spell they know upon themselves.
Shoot Em Ups
- Gunnail increases your score multiplier in proportion to how much shield points you're missing. Therefore the best way to play for score is to simply wipe out the entirety of your shield meter at the beginning of each stage. However, this triggers a constant Critical Annoyance alarm and one more hit means a Game Over.
- In Hellsinker if you end up on your last heart you will enter a state called Auto Regen which gives you heart pieces at an accelerated rate until you get an extend.
- The fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons introduced a large number of effects that start when a character is seriously wounded, adding a "Bloodied" number (half the characters full HP) to character sheets and monster entries to mark when they come into play. In many monster cases powerful non-recharging effects like Splash Damage attacks get 'reloaded' when the monster is Bloodied.
- While more rare, examples exist in third edition as well. Barbarians can trade their normal Rage ability for "Berserker Strength", gaining bonuses when their hp falls below a certain threshold. The Pain Mastery feat grants the user a Strength bonus based on how much damage they have taken.
- Something Awful: Dungeons & Dragons: Joey has several attacks and abilities that trigger when he becomes bloodied including an aura of fire, extra attacks, and just straight up extra damage die.
- Magic: The Gathering: The "Near-Death Experience" card instantly wins the game, but only if you start your turn with only one life point. The "Avatar of Hope" is a powerful creature that deploys for nearly free if your health is low.
- The Dark Ascension set has several "Fateful Hour" cards that have improved effects if their user has 5 or less life. For reference, players start at 20 life.
- Don't Rest Your Head has two, one for HP and one for the Sanity Meter, both improving the respective talent:
- Exhaustion: gets a minimal amount of successes proportional to the current Ex. Addictionally, the more tired you are, the bigger bonuses you get when you burn your Exhaustion to get a boost.
- Madness: Madness is required to use your superpower. You can use up to 6 "Temporary" dices... plus the "Permanent" ones you've aquired with the loss of your sanity. 6 dices can affect a city block, but 9 means "Last Stand that levels half the town".
- Tenra Bansho Zero has this as an explicit mechanic. Players get some say in just how seriously an attack wounds their characters and the more severe their worst injury, the better the combat bonuses they get. (They pay for it later when healing, because more serious wounds are also harder to recover from.) This is in fact the only way player characters can actually die in combat — by voluntarily checking off their "Dead" box for the maximum bonus possible (and to signal that the fight has just gotten that serious) and then taking enough damage to actually kill them.
- Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time has the Kiwibeast, which initially starts out small but grows in size up to two times as it takes enough damage. At high health, it deals weak damage on the square it's on, but when it's taken enough damage and large, it can hit a 5x4 area of zombies for huge damage per hit.