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Cycle of Hurting
The distressing scenario in a video game when you're caught in an inescapable Death Trap and have to watch your Life Meter gradually be reduced to nothing — or, if you're a One Hitpoint Wonder, exhaust your supply of One Ups one by one as you keep respawning in a very unfortunate position.

This is basically what Mercy Invincibility is supposed to prevent. It can even be utilized as a cheap method of taking down enemies by attacking the moment they come out of the stunned status, known as stunlocking.

This is a Classic Video Game Screw You when deliberate, and a Game-Breaking Bug when accidental.


Examples:

General
  • Happens in flick screen games where you reappear at the edge of the screen you just entered. If you fell from the screen above, then you'll just keep reappearing at the top edge with no way to save yourself. See Jet Set Willy. It is also often called "Jet Set Willy syndrome" for this.
  • Many games with autosaves will sometimes trigger a savepoint just as you are about to be killed, resulting you being stuck in an unwinnable cycle of dying and reloading.
  • Generally games with Standard Status Effects such as “stun” which prevent you from acting can have problems where the condition triggers frequently enough (such as every time the opponent hits) that the character in question is “stunlocked,” unable to do anything until death's release.
    • Even without special conditions, merely having a short Knockback or flinch animation when taking damage that prevents the victim from escaping or fighting back will have a similar effect if chained close enough together.
  • Spawn-camping in multiplayer games can result in this. Given that most players need a moment to orientate themselves after spawning, this can be extremely frustrating. Especially in games with automated turrets that other players can build, as they can instantly lock onto targets and kill them before the spawning process is even done. Usually the only way to stop it is to either wait for the round ends, go invincible (if it's possible, and in many games it isn't) and kill them, or call in a moderator or GM to resolve it.
  • Games where you're up against a horde of monsters can make this happen to you if, after some time, the monsters congregate around the respawn spot and keep killing you before you can substantially damage them.

Action Adventure
  • The original Metroid had a particular area deep inside Norfair where it was possible to fall into lava between two eyeball columns tall enough that you couldn't jump back out.
    • The Hive Mecha from Metroid Prime floods the room with poisoned water except a small platform in the center, and sends out War Wasps to knock you into it. Since this is the beginning of the game, you have neither a large supply of Energy Tanks nor the Gravity Suit, and thus, if the wasps knock you into the water, it's game over about 80% of the time, unless you somehow find a way to jump out.
    • This trope is still heavily in play in the remake, Metroid Zero Mission. The Mother Brain fight is just outright unfair at times with unpredictable turret fire and the energy Cheerio... things... which are constantly targeting you. You'd be lucky to stay standing in one spot for more than two or three seconds.
  • Good luck living if you happen to get caught by the 11th or 14th colossi in Shadow of the Colossus; they'll ram into you the second you start getting up again, and again, and again... It's even worse than just instant death, because it takes a considerable amount of time until you actually run out of health and die and you can reload the last save.
  • In Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, you could achieve this thanks to the quick save feature if you happened to quick save right before your inevitable death. Thankfully, the devs foresaw this and added an autosave feature at the start of every screen.
  • The Spikes Of Doom are not immediately lethal in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but some spike pits are arranged so that you can end up bouncing from one spike to another until reduced to Ludicrous Gibs. This becomes less of a problem later in the game, as you can simply turn to mist, or pause the game and equip the Spike Breaker Armor.
    • The later games don't have this particular problem... but you're still likely to get petrified before landing in spikes, at which point you're pretty much boned. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin actually codes spikes specifically to ensure that this happensnote .
  • The Redeads in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess are often accompanied by half a dozen goddamned mini-skeletons; the skeletons knock you down, when you get up the Redead paralyzes and hits your with their BFS, then the skeletons hit you again, lather, rinse, repeat.
    • They did this in all the games, really, even if it's just a redead. Oh, and then there's swarms of ice keese, which will flap over, freeze you, and then freeze you again the instant you thaw.
    • If you exploit the screen-warp glitch in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening a little too much before getting Zora's Flippers, you may accidentally fall into a pit. Filled with deep water.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask:
    • At Great Bay Temple, it's possible to aggro all of the Bonefish in any given room in such a manner that causes them to repeatedly attack you, draining your health faster than you can get to any safe haven.
    • Near the 4th temple, there is a cave that contains a troubled and vengeful spirit. The ghost attacks Link on sight and he hovers over a pool of water. As the ghost plays his deadly music, Link takes damage on every tick. Should you jump into the pool during this time, Link will be unable to climb out because the damage tick knocks Link back into the water and Link's climbing animation is slower than the damage ticks he receives in this event. Link will eventually die and respawn.
      • It's not a guaranteed death; it is possible to get out, but likely with a large amount of damage taken.
  • In Silent Hill 3, there's a room containing nothing but a sink and a mirror on the wall. The door locks behind you and you can only watch as the tendrils of blood on the other side of the mirror seep into that side's sink and leak out of the sink on your side, eventually starting to smother you. Players of the console versions might not realize that the blood slowly sucks out your health because, unlike the PC version, your health is only displayed on the pause screen. Luckily the door unlocks and you can leave as soon as you start taking damage, but the game gives no indication of this, so most players die in this room, unless they're unaware that the door locked in the first place because they never tried to leave before.
    • The Slurpers knock you down, rape you, knock you down as you get back up, repeat.
  • Oregon Trail II's river-rafting minigame sometimes respawns you right behind a rock, causing you to repeatedly hit it until you drown.
  • In the early Resident Evil games, you could find yourself being repeatedly attacked by an enemy while hopelessly trying to reload your weapon.
  • In the "Eke Reloaded" pack (and its old precedessor, the Eke Pack) of Clonk, this is what makes stippels dangerous. A single stippel dies after one, or maximally three hits from any firearm, and its bite deals mere Scratch Damage, but in masses, they tend to fling you against a wall with the Knock Back of their bite and stunlock you. If you don't have a jetpack or something to kill all of them in a single hit, Death of a Thousand Cuts is certain.
  • In Dragon Ball Z: Buu's Fury if you return to Hercule City after beating the game you can still fight the enemies around the carnival area. There's also a golden tank in front of the tent. Even though any of the characters can destroy it in a few punches, if it pushes one against a wall they constantly take damage and can't move from being stuck in the flinch motion. Seeing how at this point in the game everyone's defense would be so high that the tank only does 1 point of damage on every touch. Plus most of the characters' HP is well over a thousand so watching them die could take a while. The only way to escape is to restart, and God forbid you have a Lazarus crystal...
  • The combat in the Little Big Adventure games was pretty frustrating because of this, as Twinsen would reel back uncontrollably any time he took damage and could still get hit while doing so, often leading to an endless loop until his health ran out.
  • In the Sundown Path level of Bastion, the tiles in the ground disappear over time. Falling causes you to take a bit of damage, go prone, and land on a nearby piece of ground - which is likely to fall down again before you're able to move.
  • Can easily happen in Ecco the Dolphin , if you get lost in one of the underwater tunnel areas, or trapped by the hold of the giant tentacle in some levels and can't figure out how to get loose from it.
  • You can easily get caught one of these in the Pokémon Rumble series if you're facing multiple enemy Pokemon with moves that cause a lengthy stagger animation like Rock Slide or moves that induce paralysis or flinching like Dragonbreath and Fake Out. In the former case, there's absolutely nothing you can do escape, while the latter necessitates that you button mash with the right timing to break out of the status effect at a moment that provides enough time for you move away without getting hit and inflicted with the status again.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, it's possible to get mobbed by enemies, knocked down, and then wailed on repeatedly as you try to get back up.
  • The lawnmower guys in ToeJam & Earl are notorious for milking this trope for all it's worth. The game only grants Mercy Invincibility after you die, so because they're fast and persistent, once you get hit, you'll just keep getting hit until you die. They'll go away for a second, but as soon as you respawn, they'll be all over you again, ready to land another cheap kill as soon as the after-death invincibility wears off. Unless you've got a present that can let you escape quickly once you respawn, rinse and repeat as you watch your lives slowly dwindle away to nothing.

Beat-Em-Up

Driving Games
  • In Driver, getting spun out leaves you a sitting duck to be rammed to death by the other cops chasing you. This rears its ugly head on the first game's final mission, The President's Run, where your wanted meter starts at max, so the cops drive at maximum speed, while you're stuck with a slow limousine. On slippery icy roads that don't affect the cops' handling.
  • In Twisted Metal 2, each enemy vehicle AI used only a few specific weapons but used them all the time. Two of them (Mr. Slam and Mr. Grimm) included the freeze missile in their rotation at a rate of fire well beyond what a player can achieve. If either one hits you with a freeze missile and you don't have enough initial speed and inertia to coast out of the danger zone while frozen, you'll find yourself trapped in place getting frozen over and over and over with no way to escape while having your life very slowly chipped away by machine gun fire.
    • In Twisted Metal III, the first boss's (Darkside) special is a flamethrower/freeze missile combo which he likes to spam and has seemingly infinite ammo. If you get unlucky, being hit by it is a guaranteed life-lose.
    • Twisted Metal Black was the king of this. Prepared to be stuck and beaten to death at any given moment. They synchronize attacks with yours to screw them up. Use Minion's special? They'll freeze you with Computers Are Fast reflexes. Use Mr. Grimm's? They'll hit you with a rico and tilt you or with a power missile and stun you. It never ends either.
    • Sweet Tooth as the Final Boss in TM 4 has a homing attack that follows you through walls, paralyzes you, and pummels you to death.
    • Outright stunlocks are rare in Vigilante8 and its sequel, but Molo's choking exhaust can stall an enemy and deal enough damage to wreck them if you have enough special weapon ammo, though this is very hard to pull off because he's a lumbering bus and the exhaust is at the back. Also, there is an infinite loop on one of the Second Offense maps where cars that fall into a water hazard respawn right in front of the water where you can repeatedly blow them in again with Convoy's horn blast weapon.

Fighting Games
  • This is generally known in fighting games as "infinite combos." They are often difficult to do, much less win with from 100% vitality, so they are generally considered either Game Breaking Bugs or Good Bad Bugs depending on the player's skill, but they are a common motivation for Updated Rereleases in either case. Particularly bad loops are often banned in tournament play. Some games feature Combo Breaker mechanics to give players a way out of these.
  • Guilty Gear: Until it was nerfed, Sol Badguy's infamous Dust Loop was a textbook example of this. Now the ability belongs to Eddie's corner screw potential.
    • Worse still, the Dust Loop made a triumphant return in Accent Core Plus, but this time not for Sol. Instead, EX Order-Sol (more or less GG1!Sol with added stats from #Reload) received it. The cycle of TEYAH! lives on.
    • Harder to utilize without proper execution but just as deadly was Slayer's Bite Loop with his command throw, an intricate sequence using forward dash cancelling to continuously bite and stun the opponent, then following up with a few choice attacks to dizzy them, ensuring an Instant Kill to end the round. It was nerfed in #Reload (Slayer could only get off 6 or 7 bites as opposed to the required amount, which was usually 10+), but remains a viable tactic due to the large amounts of Tension it nets him, plus its health regen properties.
    • GG's Spiritual Successor BlazBlue sees the baton passed to Carl and his infinite Clap Loop (in Calamity Trigger, at least).
  • Jinpachi in Tekken 5, if luck isn't on your side. Stun, fireball, stun, fireball, :dies:, :throws controller:.
  • Virtua Fighter 2 has the Pai Loop, so called because a close-range high-kick from Pai, if repeated, is uncounterable by anyone except Akira (and even that requires frame-perfect timing). The good thing about this is that CPU opponents rarely if ever accomplish this loop, but a cheap player...
  • Super Smash Bros. has a few infinite combos at the pro level, such as the Ice Climbers' "chain grab". In the original game's Hyrule stage, the "Rapetent" allows many characters to pull off infinite combos.

First Person Shooters
  • In Left 4 Dead, if you've been pinned by a hunter or smoker and nobody's available to save you, there's little to do except watch your health drain. On lower difficulties, it can take a decent while to actually get killed in this situation.
    • Being hit by a Tank's attack stuns your character for a moment, making them unable to move or use a weapon. This can get incredibly annoying as you are struggling to get away or trying to reload and get stuck in a cycle of being hit, reloading, being hit, having to start the reload over, repeat. Did you get cornered? You might as well shoot yourself to save you the trouble if you could.
    • And the sequel, of course, brings us the Spitter - so woe betide any foursome that gets charged in a narrow hallway while a Spitter's nearby.
  • It's even worse if you never run out of lives - in some games, like Halo's co-op, you can spawn into a pit infinitely. Fortunately, in the Halo example, it's only an unbreakable cycle if your partner's a jerk - as soon as they move, you'll spawn in a different spot.
    • Unfortunately it is an unbreakable cycle in single player. There are spots where a checkpoint can register while you're in the process of falling off a cliff. All you can do is restart the level, so that's a good two hours of work down the toilet if you're playing Legendary.
      • However, dying enough times at a checkpoint in later games will throw you back a checkpoint. Not particularly a bad thing, but some of the game's checkpoints are widely spread out, making getting back to that particular section a little more difficult. This also happens regardless of if you're falling down a pit or not.
    • In later games, since charged plasma shots temporarily paralyze vehicles, enemies or other players can repeatedly do this while cherry tapping you to death with plasma pistol or rifle shots, as well as leaving you a sitting duck for one hit kill attacks such as those from Hunters or Wraiths.
  • In Doom, there are many inescapable pits of poison or lava. If you fall in, you can either wait until it dissipates all your health, or just reload your last saved game.
    • Though some of those pit have a way out hidden inside, or even some bonus items as a reward for taking the plunge (good thing that falling didn't actually do any harm). Both Hexen and Strife included falling damage to avert having to endure a slow death via damaging floorspace.
    • In Doom 3, some enemies such as Pinky Demons and Shotgun Z-Secs can stun-lock you, especially if you're trying to reload.
  • In some levels of Descent on Insane difficulty, Demonic Spiders such as Red Hulks and Class 2 Missile Platforms can pin you in the starting area and blow you away every time you respawn, similar to multiplayer spawn-camping, or prevent you from reclaiming your lost weapons.
  • In Golden Eye 1997 and Perfect Dark, you are stunned and knocked back when hit. If being shot by a large group of enemies, they can stunlock you to death, especially on 00 Agent.
  • Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 often had this when stuck under a descending elevator.
  • Glider PRO wasn't too smart about respawning gliders in safe spots. Respawning locations were either fixed or where the glider happened to enter the room. If the latter happened to be inside the floor, you would lose all your lives; this was a Game-Breaking Bug on one house released on the Glider PRO CD.
  • Call of Duty 2 had a segment where you had to defend a town from a large group of German mortar teams. Your play area was confined to the small tower you have to snipe from. If you aren't able to take out the enemies fast enough, the game can sometimes autosave just before a mortar shell lands directly on top of your head.
  • Get flashbanged in a Modern Warfare game on Veteran, and watch helplessly as the enemy takes you out execution-style when you regain your vision. As in other Call of Duty games, an autosave can be triggered in an imminent death situation or otherwise bad position.

Gamebooks
  • At least one Fighting Fantasy book (specifically Creature of Havoc) did this, bouncing you around the same references in an endless cycle. One instance was against an unending army where you had to fight the next soldier the minute you killed the previous one, whilst another featured an immortal enemy who returned to life every time you won, meaning you either ran out of STAMINA from the infinite number of battles or eventually figured out what was going on.

MOBA Games
  • Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars has the Cranium Basher, an item with a chance to stun the target on every melee attack. Get enough attack speed and the unfortunate enemy player is unable to do anything. Changes were made to prevent endless stunlock, but you can still achieve near-endless stunlock instead and when you throw in a few allies with some of the many X second stun spells in the game it's pretty much gg for the enemy.

MMORPGs
  • In Guild Wars, it's possible for your party to get trapped in a wipe/resurrect cycle at a resurrection shrine, getting closer to the death penalty cap each time. The only ways to escape are to whittle your opponents down between wipes until you beat them or map travel back to an outpost. However, this can be exploited, because the enemies gain XP slowly and will eventually level, so when you finally beat them you'll gain more XP.
  • Perfect World has this… sort of. There is a certain status effect called "Stun", which keeps you from moving or attacking for a few seconds. Axe-using Blademasters have three stunning moves, and some people have figured out how to chain them in a certain way that keeps their enemies from moving forever. If you happen to be in PvP mode, well, I hope you brought a ressurection scroll, a good cleric, or, if you're a Barbarian, some popcorn, cause this'll take a while.
  • Same thing happens in World of Warcraft with rogues. If a rogue gets the first hit on someone, it's pretty much over. There are a couple of ways to break a stun, but all they have to do is reapply it again and again and again and again
    • Certain stuns (as well as crowd control) have diminishing returns, so that after four instances of a similar ability (each application being reduced by 25% in duration) you are immune within 1 minute of the first application. However, if you don't wear plate by then you're pretty much screwed anyway...
    • The troll city instance Zul'Gurub, at level 60 a challenge requiring 20 level-capped players, now easily soloed by any class with a healing spell for a chance to obtain a mount unavailable through any other means to one's faction (the nightsaber for horde and raptor for alliance) has a room full of trolls and tigers right before the tiger boss trio. The trolls there have a whirlwind type ability that can be applied from a distance that lasts for about 5 seconds, applies a stun to the player lasting about 2 seconds that is reapplied about every 1.5 seconds. And this is frequently used in succession by several different trolls while the player is being wailed on by a number of tiger cubs. Even the mightiest characters with best-in-slot gear can see their health whittled away from tens of thousands to near death before being able to fight back.
    • The Essence of Desire phase of the Reliquary of Souls in Black Temple can keep a solo character permanently stunned.
  • This could happen in EVE Online (until they fixed it) with the status effect 'Fear'. What Fear would do is cause the player's ship to run away. Combine this with enemies that would chase you would result in a long slow helpless death as you watch said enemies shot you with zero retaliation possible.
  • in Phantasy Star Online, casting Deband (raises the defense of yourself and allies), and/or Jellen (lowers enemy attack) could sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help on higher difficulties where enemies both move and attack very fast. A strong enough attack would knock your character to the ground and give them some brief Mercy Invincibility upon getting back up, while the weaker attacks did neither. If you were buffed and surrounded by debuffed enemies on one of the higher difficulties, then they could juggle you back and forth, attacking too fast for you to break free, and not doing enough damage per hit to knock you down.

Platform Games
  • Various Sonic the Hedgehog games
  • La-Mulana had a few spiked pits too deep to even Double Jump out of, most notably the Confusion Gate's 'Sacrificial Pit' and the Twin Labyrinth's passage pits. You could still use the Grail to teleport out.
  • It's possible to end up in such positions in I Wanna Be the Guy, such as falling into a deep pit in the process of shooting a save point, so that death is inevitable by the time the bullet hits it and saves the game.
    • The evil save point at the end of the game turns evil again when you restore, so if you saved so that respawn in the middle of it, you're screwed.
    • The fangame Pickory lets you undo saves for precisely this reason.
  • In Impossamole, Monty's Mercy Invincibility doesn't protect him from being knocked back by Spikes Of Doom, so you can end up being bounced back and forth in certain areas.
  • Thing On A Spring just loves to throw inescapable DeathTraps at you, filled with floating enemies and/or electric beams that slowly drain your oil energy-meter. In the worst case though, the trap is just an empty hole, where you have to watch the oil-meter depleting by itself at a painfully slow pace. But if the trap has a low-hanging ceiling, you're at your own mercy to drain the oil yourself, by rapidly jumping and ramming your head against the walls, chipping the oil away bit by bit!
  • Because of the way extra lives work in Blinx the Time Sweeper, it's quite easy to land yourself in one of these. When you lose a Retry, the game rewinds everything, including you, by a few seconds. Of course, if you were already stuck during those seconds, you have no choice but to restart the level.
  • Ninja Gaiden (NES): Owing to the lack of Mercy Invincibility, in levels overloaded with Goddamned Bats, such as the first game's Stage 6-2, they can juggle you until you run out of HP or fall into a Bottomless Pit.
  • Yetis, Chieftains, and unarmed shopkeepers in Spelunky attack by throwing the player. Occasionally, they will toss the player against a wall only to rebound back into the enemy who then tosses the player into the wall again only for the player to rebound back into the enemy... you see where this is going. To add insult to injury, they'll continue doing this even after the player has died, only stopping once the character has been gibbed or the player exits to menu.
  • In Altered Beast there is no Mercy Invincibility. This is especially bad on the third level, which has Bottomless Pits and you often spawn right next to one, on top of an enemy. Rinse, repeat.
  • In Atlantis No Nazo, if you take the wrong door in one stage, you wind up in the 42nd Zone, "Black Hole!" It's basically a giant Bottomless Pit which you fall into as many times as you have lives remaining.
  • In Iji, the most powerful weapons (specifically, the Nuke, Velocithor, and Phantom Hammer) bypass your Mercy Invincibility, specifically to prevent you from deliberately taking damage from a weaker attack to avoid them. The Nuke and Phantom Hammer are single-shot weapons, but the Velocithor is a continuous beam, so if you get caught in it, your continually-restarting knockdown animation prevents you from doing anything beyond pausing the game. The good news is that the Velocithor is only used by two people besides yourself, and one of those is hidden. The bad news is that, on the harder modes, the beam can last longer than even a completely full health bar.

Role Playing Games
  • Due to certain bugs in the first two Fallout games, it was possible to have a save game stuck in an area full of previously non-hostile people, who will now all be hostile and in combat from the beginning of each load. A sure kill for non-combat or squishy players.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas and occasionally Fallout 3, your character can spaz out in VATS and be unable to fire back while the enemy hacks away at you. Also, certain enemies can knock the player down; if they are attacking in a group, this can result in fatal stunlock. Third, as with many other games, the game can autosave right before or when the player recieves a killing blow, leading to a looping death reload.
  • This is the way Secret of Mana works. Getting hit stuns anything that isn't a boss for exactly as the attacker has to wait to attack again. This mostly gets used against the enemies, but having this happen to your characters is still the most common form of death in the game.
  • The original Diablo has this in spades. Getting hit with enough damage will stun you (or an enemy) and you can get stunned repeatedly which leads to a stunlock. Avoiding stunlock is pretty much the basis of all warrior's strategies, and is important to ALL chars. If you do get stunlocked, all you can do is mash healing potions hoping for a chain of misses. Meanwhile, your equipment was taking damage along with you, could break completely in just a few seconds once the durability alarm appears, and once broken would vanish forever. But then this is the game where clicking the wrong shrine takes away mana permanently and some monsters cause permanent life damage, so it's fair.
    • On the bright side, this makes even the boss fight against Diablo a cinch. To elaborate: monsters can get stunned by spells they are not resistant to, usually dooming them because the cast speed of any character that wants to cast spells exceeds the hit recovery speed of the monster, but past the midgame just about everything is indeed resistant (or immune) to everything. Well, except Diablo himself, who for some reason is the only non-undead in the whole game that can be hit by the lowly Holy Bolt spell. And Holy Bolt deals pure damage that cannot be resisted...
  • In Tales of Phantasia, there's a certain enemy that can turtle into a state that renders it invulnerable to weapons and damages anyone who touches it.
    • If this is the Yeti in the lower floors of the Moria Gallery and his ice spike barrier, Cless has a tech that involves dropping straight down onto his opponent and following it up with a Sword Rain tech. Try this against the Yeti when he pulls up the ice barrier, and Cless will instead get stuck in a lightning fast Cycle of Hurting that will kill him almost instantly.
  • In The Last Story this is mostly averted since all party members, including the protagonist, can die up to 4 times in a single battle with no repercussions...then you meet the Forest Spider, which can hit you with a web you have to button-mash your way out of, and if you're not fast enough, not lined up right to retaliate, or are hit by the boss's flunkies, it gives the boss the time to remove one of your party member from the remainder of the battle. It can do this until you're left with your protagonist alone, by which time you can be permanently locked in the Paralysis status for the rest of your five lives.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins the Ogre has an attack that grabs and holds a character, and beats it to death while you watch the Life Meter slowly decrease when you can only be bailed out by one of your party members doing something to make it let go. Sometimes it uses this technique twice in a row on the same character. They can also spam their headbutt attack, which does a lot of damage and knocks you down.
    • Many enemies have such incapacitating moves from ordinary wolves to High Dragons. The best you can do is to try to stun them, while spamming Heal with your mage. There is also an Ogre-like demon in the Fade-level that will do two different stunning actions in a row, potentially putting you to a situation where you stand up only to be knocked down again repeatedly. Normal Ogres thankfully can't do this.
    • Perhaps the single most irritating instance of this trope in the game stems from the spell “Crushing Prison.” This spell immobilizes the target and does significant spirit damage while allowing the caster's allies free hits throughout the spell's duration. The game has no end of enemies who just love to stack this with the aforementioned mortality spell and other effects to make absolutely certain that you lose members quickly.
    • Blood Wound is the worst, though - a blood mage spell that incapacitates and wears down the HP of your ENTIRE PARTY at once. Always, always shoot the mage first.
  • Attack a Floating Eye in NetHack without making certain preparations, and watch your character get nibbled to Perma Death by a gecko or something equally nonthreatening.
    • And then of course there's being mobbed in the open by lightning-fast ants and bees.
  • The Dreamcast adaptation of Record of Lodoss War notoriously has this; Flying Omelette calls it "Record of Lodoss War Syndrome".
  • In Oblivion, it's possible to be caught in a never ending cycle of being shot with an arrow, stumbling, and then being shot again, followed by stumbling. Its is painfully annoying.
    • In its predecessor, Morrowind, you can be knocked down by unarmed attacks and as soon as you get up, get knocked back down. Over and over again. Plus, unarmed attacks do very little damage, meaning it takes forever to die.
    • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Shout FUS RO DAH results in the target being Blown Across the Room. Normally the player is the one using it, and is restricted from using it as a Spam Attack by its Cooldown period. However, get three or four high-level Draugr alternating it at you (especially if you're stuck in a corner), and you may never be able to stand up again.
      • There are a couple ways players can pull this trope on their enemies as well. A Dragonborn with the right high-level Destruction perks can zap their helpless, stunlocked foes to death with chain lightning Palpatine-style, while a melee-oriented character equipped with a shield and mace can endlessly pound away on a foe by alternating power and shield bash attacks, both of which cause flinching.
  • In Final Fantasy X, you can fight a monster known as the Malboro (there's also a tougher variant in the hidden Omega Ruins). His Bad Breath move hits the entire party with a wide variety of status ailments, including Darkness (can't hit physically), Berserk (you can't control the character and he must attack, deals extra damage), Poison (character loses 1/4 max HP every turn) and Confuse (character attacks self and party members at random). Needless to say, if these stack, you're forced to watch your entire party flail uselessly trying to kill themselves - then succeeding due to the poison. The one in Omega Ruins always gets "Ambushed!", which gives it the first turn unless someone on your side has the First Strike ability - and a 90% chance of using Bad Breath.
    • Bad breath got taken to eleven in Final Fantasy IV with Lunasaur. On turn one, you are stuck there, praying for one of your characters to eventually hit someone (which they won't, because they're blinded) until eventually the AI decides that it has humiliated your party enough and starts one-hit-killing your party. Oh, and guess what it's guarding? Two Ribbons, which make you immune to status effects... Thankfully, the DS version of the game isn't quite this cruel, as your Paladin is immune to these effects.
    • Malboros are also very nasty customers in Final Fantasy VIII, even moreso than in FFX. They almost always get the first turn, and they always lead with Bad Breath. Unless the player has taken the time to ensure that at least one person in the party is immune to both Confuse and Berserk, they're entirely likely to lose control of the whole party and be left unable to keep the characters from either killing one another or succumbing to Poison or Petrification.
  • In the first generation of Pokémon games, the move Wrap immobilized the target for 2-5 turns, while doing pitiful damage. Tentacool, a Pokemon that is essentially the water equivilent of Zubat, can and will spam this. Wrap was nerfed in the later games so that it only does damage and prevents switching.
    • There are also certain move/ability combinations in the metagame that can virtually prevent the action. The ability Serene Grace, which doubles the likelihood of a move's secondary effects, can be combined with the moves Body Slam (which has a 30% chance to cause paralysis, a status effect that prevents a pokemon from moving 25% of the time and also greatly reduces its speed), and Iron Head (which has a 30% chance to make a pokemon fail to take an action). That makes for a greatly slowed enemy with a vanishingly small chance of being able to move while you wear it down by spamming Iron Head. It also tends to cause Rage Quits when used successfully.
  • In Kingdom Hearts 3D, the abundance of enemies with moves that can stun, freeze, or otherwise keep you from acting can lead to this occasionally. It's most common with the Skelterwilds, thanks to them being able to freeze and stun you on top of having an annoying bite and shake attack that keeps you from doing anything until it ends and leaves you in position for more abuse afterward.
  • In the Geneforge series, this is the main purpose of the glaahk creation. Getting hit by two glaahks in one round will inflict so many levels of stun that it will leave the victim completely unable to act the next round, which is useful for locking down bosses but a pain to receive. Ghostly enemies also frequently inflict a lot of stun and often inflict the "slowed" effect.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, prior to a slight retool (that also introduced a Tutorial Level) frustrated players once they got to Flotsam, as the Endregas had a very nasty habit of knocking you over mid-swing, then charging again as soon as you got back up... on normal difficulty, at that!
  • Corruption of Champions has satyrs on the Plains. One of their attacks is a headbutt - which stuns you, since they have horns. You can't do anything on the next turn but recover (you can't even run). Nothing stops the satyr from headbutting again. Most fights with satyrs either end with you taking them out in two turns or you getting raped... and that's not a euphemism.
  • Gothic 3 and Risen 2 (both of the same developer) in the original incarnation made fairly easy enemies (boars and giant crabs respectively) into killers that could take you down even late in the game. If you didn't dodge the first attack, you were turned into mincemeat because the cringing animation of being hit was longer than the time it took the enemy to start the next attack. Thankfully later patches fixed this problem.
  • Like in the Dungeons & Dragons example above, area-effect spells in Baldur's Gate can very easily be used to create situations like these, especially with the Cloudkill spell, which knocks targets unconscious while continuously dealing damage (and every time they regain consciousness, they have to make another roll to avoid getting knocked out again) and lasts a very long time. Prep some ranged attacks to speed things along, and many enemies that are knocked out by it are as good as dead (though even if they aren't, casting Web or Entangle in the same area can help hold them in place.)

Simulation
  • In MechWarrior 4 and Mechwarrior 3, high caliber ballistics and large missile salvos (and sometimes even lasers) can knock smaller BattleMechs off their feet, causing them to collapse onto the ground and lay almost totally helpless (sometimes they will fall in a way that allows them to fire back) for a few seconds on the ground as they start to rise back up onto their feet. Often times as soon as the mech is back onto its feet, another salvo from the high-powered weapons will knock it back onto the ground.
    • In MechWarrior Online, mechs won't fall over from damage, but in early versions of the beta, running into a mech would basically tackle it to the ground. The Dragon is a very fast, well armored, well armed heavy mech that, in one patch, had effectively infinite mass, allowing it to go plowing through enemy battle lines, smashing everything in its way to the ground without missing a step... then turn around, and repeat it again as the enemies are starting to get back on their feet, and again, and again, slowly wearing down the enemy's armor while they are totally helpless. The ramming/tackling mechanic broke the gameplay (and netcode) so thoroughly that it was removed entirely.
    • Weapons that generate heat on whatever they hit are often prime causes of the Cycle of Hurting. In the Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries free release, Inferno Rockets have a huge splash area that does almost no damage but creates huge amounts of heat on whatever is in the blast area. Combine this with the fact that they have an almost instant refire rate, and you get a weapon that can keep an enemy shut down for minutes at a time - either until the guy with the infernos gets bored or runs out of ammo. In Living Legends, the "Flamasser" variant of the Harasser hovercraft came loaded with 6 flamers, on a chassis that is extremely nimble, small, and cheap. A duo of Flamassers could keep an enemy shut down indefinitely, though said enemy would usually melt to death after a couple seconds under both Flamasser's flames. However, the Flamasser was balanced out by the asset being as dangerous to enemies as it was to itself - a top-heavy, unstable firing platform with very little armor and weapons that generate so much heat that it often shuts itself down right as it shuts down an enemy.

Survival Horror
  • In Alone In The Dark 1992, enemy attacks can cause your character to flinch. In the second game, being overwhelmed by enemies or even one enemy with a Tommy gun can stun-lock Carnby until he is dead.

Tabletop Games
  • In multiple editions of Dungeons & Dragons, it is possible for spellcasters to do this with the right combination of area control spells. A Third Edition example would be combining Evard's Black Tentacles with Stinking Cloud. The tentacles root you in place until you take a standard action to free yourself, and the cloud smells so bad you have to spend your standard action fighting back nausea.
    • Not to mention the infinite tripping strategy, which involved tripping an enemy on your turn, then on their turn, when they stood up, taking an attack of opportunity to trip them again, leaving them lying on the ground unable to take many actions (they could still perform many actions from the ground but for a melee character being prone is not a good thing, and if the tripper had reach and you didn't they could put themselves outside of your range and continually trip you).
      • This technically doesn't work; you can't trip someone who's standing from prone, because he's still prone when your attack triggers. However, you can disarm them, trip them when they pick up the weapon, and then disarm them again when they stand up.
    • In 4th edition, this is the main reason solo monsters suck compared to a group of enemies. They get surrounded, tagged with a bunch of different effects, and aren't able to spread their actions out like a group of monsters can, greatly reducing their effectiveness. Later monster books have given solos various counters to this; for example, dragons get an extra action each round on a different initiative count, plus the ability to quickly shrug off stun and daze effects.
  • Anyone who plays Yu-Gi-Oh! who has dealt with anyone with Neo-Spacian Grand Mole knows that either you disable the little bugger or you'll watch your Life Points whittle away.
    • Several combos that don't rely on dealing 8000 damage to your opponent in one turn ends up resorting to this. The most infamous of which is the Yata-Garasu + Chaos Emperor Dragon combo. Basically Chaos Emperor can wipe the field and your opponent's hand of anything useful, while combined with another card allows you to get Yata-Garasu onto the field. Yata's effect forbids your opponent from drawing in the next turn. Since your opponent has no cards, all he can do is watch his life points drains away (and very slowly at that, since Yata only has 200 attack points, which is pitifully low) or bow and surrender. It surprised no one when both ended up banned.
  • Many deck designs in Magic: The Gathering, often called "prison" or "lockdown" decks, rely on setting up a situation where the opponent can't do anything. They tend to be fairly frustrating to duel against.
  • GURPS has this as a basic tenet of any combat. Being injured causes shock, which makes it difficult to defend against subsequent attacks. Since GURPS lies squarely in the Simulation corner of GNS theory, this is perfectly intentional.
  • Battletech at least in the latest iteration, Mechwarrior 4th or "A Time of War", has characters and NPCs inflicted with a Stunned status, which not only makes them more vulnerable to further attacks later in the turn (turns are not completed simultaneously but individual actions are resolved in sequence) but also requires up to half of their turn to dispel, and no actions whatsoever can be taken before ridding the status. Fortunately, a character can only be Stunned or not-Stunned, true Stunlock isn't possible.
    • Can also happen in the tactical board game. For one, MechWarriors can take damage somewhat independently from their machines, with a rising chance of knockout after each successive hit — and a 'Mech with an unconscious pilot is helpless and an easy target, which among other things increases the chances of the pilot taking more hits (or being flat-out killed if an attack takes out the 'Mech's head) before he or she can come to again... — The other main example is falling, since a 'Mech needs to pass a die roll to successfully get up again (with penalties for things like leg damage, of course) and failure results in it just falling down again and taking more damage in the process. It's not necessarily common, but a 'Mech can potentially dash itself (or its pilot) to death that way.

Third Person Shooters
  • Could happen in many of the early Tomb Raider games where saving in the wrong spot could get Lara killed at every reload, forcing you start the level all over again.
  • In Warhawk, an incompetent, Jerkass, or worse teammate can drive a 4x4 out-of-bounds with you as a passenger, at which point you start taking damage. If you jump off and try to walk back in-bounds you almost certainly won't make it in time.
  • Being inescapably crushed by a car in the 3D Grand Theft Auto games drains your health to zero in about five seconds in order to keep the player from being indefinitely stuck.
  • This could happen in the early Syphon Filter games if you triggered a checkpoint in a bad situation (eg impending One-Hit Kill).
  • In Mass Effect 1, getting hit by biotic powers knocks Shepard down. If you're in a room full of biotics, you'll get knocked down, get up, get knocked down again, get up, get knocked down again, and repeat ad infinitum until your squadmates either free you or you die.
  • Possible in the third Max Payne. If you get sent into Last Man Standing in a bad position with multiple enemies covering Max, you could kill one guy and exit LMS only to have the others send you back. Repeat until death.
  • Star Wars Battlefront II: Getting hit by a lightsabre causes knockback, so if you're not killed outright you tend to be open to a followup swing.

Turn Based Strategy
  • In Jagged Alliance 2, Mustard Gas grenades work like this. If your character is not wearing a gas mask, and walks into a Mustard Gas cloud (or, more commonly, a Mustard Gas grenade is lobbed at him), the character will likely suffer a lot of damage and pass out. At this point, the character cannot be moved (he's passed out) and his inventory cannot be accessed, so he cannot be told to wear his gas mask if he has one at all. Each turn, the gas will drain a large amount of health and breath points from the character, making sure that he cannot escape. To make matters worse, it is even impossible to move the body out of the cloud by having another mercenary drag or lift it, so the afflicted mercenary just lies there in the cloud, completely helpless, until death. If you're fortunate though, the gas may dissipate before the character actually dies.
  • 7.62 High Calibre has the adrenaline mechanic, where situations that increase your adrenaline (seeing a target, seeing lots of targets, being shot at, being shot, etc.) make actions take less time to perform, but also makes your shots more likely to miss. If your adrenaline is maxed, you'll rarely hit an opponent more than ten feet away. On top of all this, anything that results in "shock" (see the previous list and subtract "being shot at" only) makes your character freeze for a few seconds if they're in the middle of performing an action. Since those few seconds can make a big difference between getting shot and shooting first, generally speaking if you get hit with shock, your adrenaline will shoot up, which, if you're lucky enough to get a shot off, means you'll miss, and if you then get shot, well, that character is dead. It's just a matter of time, really.
    • To try and avoid this, mercenaries can carry syrettes of morphine and inject themselves to forcefully lower their adrenaline levels.
  • Star Control 2. If you get stuck in Hyperspace between several hostile ships (especially common in Ur-Quan space), you'll end up fighting one, wasting fuel on escaping/losing your crew, then immediately encountering another one, and then another, and another...

Wide Open Sandbox
  • In Minecraft, falling into the Void at the bottom of the map is a one-way trip to a place of the game where items and entities cannot logically exist, and the player takes damage continuously.
    • A glitch in the potion that allowed you to walk in lava made it so that you would still build up falling damage while swimming in it, meaning that a player that was in it for more than a couple seconds would either burn up once the potion's effect was gone, or die instantly as soon as he touched a flat surface.
    • Being surrounded on all sides by Bedrock at least two blocks tall, with no blocks to use as steps, leaves no other choice but to spend all your energy until you starve to death.
    • Being stuck on a tiny deserted island with no access to wood or food usually means either a quick death in ten minutes from the enemies that spawn during the night, a significantly slower death from starvation, or taking your chances by swimming across the open ocean where, if you don't find land that can actually support you, you run the risk of drowning or (again) starving.
    • Expect this if you Aggro a Zombie Pigman, also recent updates now allow for Zombies to call for backup if they are injured.
    • This is very likely to happen if you're being attacked by a Skeleton while in a large body of water without a ranged attack of any sort. Their arrows prevents you from approaching it since you can't swim the distance of their arrow's knockback between attacks.

Other Games
Weak Turret GunVideo Game Difficulty TropesDeath Is a Slap on the Wrist

alternative title(s): Stun Lock
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