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Game-Breaking Injury

Think of all the knees, twisted, bent and broken
Think of all the words about knee injuries that are spoken
You may want to play football 'till your dying day,
But if your knee has had the gong, there is no running away!
Greg Champion, "Knee Reconstruction" (to the tune of "Eve of Destruction" by Bob Dylan)

The Hero is about to get into a fight with the Big Bad, The Dragon or one of the Big Bad's lackeys. The fight is biased in The Hero's favor and the viewer sees one of the most one-sided fights the series has to offer. Pretty soon the villain is already down on one knee and The Hero is ready to use their finishing strike. The Hero prepares the attack and it looks like victory is ensured.

But wait, what's this? Instead of performing their signature finishing blow, The Hero has doubled-over in pain, clutching their side! What gives?

Unfortunately, it looks like The Hero is suffering from a Game-Breaking Injury.

A Game-Breaking Injury like this develops from damage a character had taken on in an earlier encounter, whether it be from an everyday accident or received while fighting off a few Elite Mooks. The opponent will probably notice the character's weakened state and use this opportunity to turn the tide of battle. If they really want to ensure victory, then the opponent will take every chance to aggravate the injury even more by relentlessly attacking it.

Unlike the Achilles' Heel, a Game-Breaking Injury is not an intrinsic weakness as it is acquired by accident or through the opponent's doing. Sometimes the enemy in question can recognize the difference in physical ability between themselves and The Hero and will first cripple them before using their normal battle strategies. Game-Breaking Injuries do not signify the impending victory or defeat of a character; however, their presence can significantly alter the fight's outcome.

Game-Breaking Injuries can be used either as a plot device or as a means of character development. With enough Heroic Resolve, The Hero might be able to push through the pain and continue fighting. If a member of The Team is involved in this trope and he or she is of greater skill than The Big Bad, they might suffer a Game-Breaking Injury to level the playing field. Sometimes this ally is a Retired Badass who has an old war injury. If this character is an Obi Wan, then you can bet for sure that this injury will be the cause of his undoing. Often a way to make it so You Can Barely Stand.

Truthin Television, of course, especially in the sports world, where severe injuries can bench players during critical moments not to mention end their careers and leave them crippled for life.

A type of Drama-Preserving Handicap. A specific non-lethal type of Mortal Wound Reveal that only relates to the hero. If we didn't know about the injury until after the fight, that is Worf Had the Flu. This can become a Career-Ending Injury if the character never recovers. If a video game features Subsystem Damage in its gameplay, the player may be able to employ this tactic to make the Boss Battle easier.

Not to be confused with a Game-Breaking Bug, which refers to broken game code, or a Game Breaker, which usually has the opposite effect on those who possess one.


Examples

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     Anime and Manga  
  • One Piece has several examples of this trope.
    • In the Buggy the Clown Arc, Zoro was stabbed in his side by one of Buggy's floating hands right before his fight with Cabaji. The wound quickly grew in size on account of Cabaji kicking it multiple times.
    • Zoro had another Game Breaking Injury when he fought Hatchan. After being slashed in the chest by Hawk-Eeyes Mihawk, Zoro had a gaping gash on his chest as well as an incredibly high fever. Once again he was able to win in the end.
    • In the Don Krieg Arc, Sanji was unable to win in his fight against Gin on account of taking so many hits from Pearl beforehand (due to being unable to retaliate or dodge Pearl's attacks due to Gin taking Zeff hostage). Sanji's injuries were so extensive that his body could not even withstand the impact of his own attacks.
    • Another moment where Sanji suffered a Game Breaking Injury was during the Drum Island Arc. After being buried by an avalanche he later helps defend the doctor who saved his life. He's unable to fight due because the old bitch hit him in the back to temporarily paralyze him and keep him from aggravating the wound.
    • After using up all his strength defeating Rob Lucci, Luffy was so injured and exhausted that he could do nothing to protect himself from incoming cannon-fire, requiring his crew to intervene on his behalf to save him.
    • Zoro recently suffered a major Game Breaking Injury from Bartholomew Kuma, and in each of the two or three major encounters since the injuries have slowed him down considerably.
  • In Baki the Grappler, the title character fights Koushou Shinogi, a martial arts master who can cut nerve endings, causing certain limbs to become unresponsive. During the fight, Shinogi had managed to render Baki's entire right side useless.
  • In Hajime No Ippo, the main character has a match against Takuma Saeki, who is better known as The Speed Star. During the match, Seaki resorted to using jabs to swell up Ippo's eye so that he would be unable to see out of it then using this new blindspot as a way to help him deliver surprise attacks.
    • Hajime no Ippo would subvert this trope as well shortly after. Ippo injures his right fist in a training accident right before his fight with Sendo. He resorts to injecting morphine directly into the injured hand and was able to fight as normal.
    • In a rare case where the Hero cripples the villain, Ippo resorts to breaking opponent Ryu Mashiba's arm during a match. Mashiba has had a history of using dirty tactics such as stepping on other boxers' toes and using his elbow to block. The later move he was employing in spades; Ippo decides instead of just avoiding Mashiba's elbow he's going to simply punch through it at the expense of injuring his own fist.
    • There is also the fight of Takamura vs. David Eagle, in which Takamura gets blinded by blood flowing into his eyes. Notably, David Eagle does not abuse this because he is that honorable. Takamura however, is made out of different wood and soon gives David the same injury, making them both almost blind.
    • Taken to a heartbreaking extent in Date's rematch with Ricardo Martinez; Date's special Megaton Punch, the Heartbreak Shot, gets thrown twice- the first time Ricardo blocks it by shear luck with his elbow, shattering Date's right hand. The second time he throws it, his timing and the setup are absolutely perfect and it's a straight shot to the knock-out, except the damage sustained from the first shot robs him of the power he needs to clinch it.
    • Many of the examples given so far are actually Truth in Television. It is very common for fighters to specifically attack a cut created earlier or to keep attacking a swollen eye. Legends like Roberto Duran were notoriously dirty in their fights, but were expert at hiding it from the referee. Arturo Gatti once broke his hand in the middle of a fight and kept using it. Matter of fact, much of what's ever happened in boxing is sometimes too crazy to think it might have actually happened.
      • You can add Sonny Liston blinding opponents with vaseline on his gloves, boxers thumbing the eyes with their punches (less common today), and headbutting and rubbing your head in a cut.
  • Piccolo resorted to using Game Breaking Injuries at the end of the first Dragon Ball series. To gain an upper hand in the fight, Piccolo breaks one of Goku's legs and puts a giant gaping hole in his shoulder. To make sure his opponent felt that particular attack, he later rams his elbow into it.
    • Also, in the movie "Broly, the Legendary Super Saiyan," Broly was stabbed through the gut with a dagger. Many years later, guess where Goku punches him.
    • Goku in the Android and Cell Sagas, firstly falls to his knee during a fight with C19 because of a heart virus, and then forgets to eat senzu bean to recover his wounds before he's taken down by a Cell Jr.
  • In the final volume of Great Teacher Onizuka, Onizuka is targeted by a group of baseball bat-wielding motorcycle riders who hit him in the head multiple times. What really makes this fight dramatic is that Onizuka is suffering from a brain condition in which if he suffers one more major blow to the head, he will die. The biker gang is well aware of this information.
  • During the fight with Shishio in Rurouni Kenshin, the entire cast feels this. Kenshin's been weakened to the point that he has to string multiple special moves together to even get Shishio to flinch, Saito's legs have been injured, making his signature attack useless, Sanosuke can't properly perform his special attack, and Aoshi can barely fight. Ultimately, Shishio's own Game-Breaking Injury is what does him in as he can't regulate his body temperature following the government's attempt to burn him to death, and after exerting himself for too long, he spontaneously combusts.
    • Also averted earlier, when Saito was trying to prove to Sanosuke that he's not strong enough to help Kenshin: Saito beats him up effortlessly, bare-handed, and specifically avoids aiming for Sano's injured shoulder.
    • Averted in Kenshin's backstory as well. Prior to an Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, his opponent had Mooks set off traps (a concussion bomb and a flash-bang) that left Kenshin deaf and nearly blind. Kenshin still managed to win the duel thanks to the Heroic Sacrifice of his wife, who stepped in to block a hit that would have killed him.
    • This also ultimately ends Kenshin career as a swordsman at the end of the series. As Kenshin fragile build can't fully withstand the pressures of his sword style which Megumi notes over time he won't be able to do anything major like he did in the past. Though Kenshin's fine with this as he wishes to settle down with Karou anyway.
  • Cowboy Bebop: The Movie has Spike taking a gunshot wound to the stomach right before his fight with Vincent in the climax fight. For the most part he doesn't feel it until his opponent grabs at it.
  • The Prince of Tennis has a few of these moments, which are literally Gamebreaking Injuries
    • Kunimitsu Tezuka has an old injury in his left elbow due to the immense amount of strain his techniques put it through and a rather cruel bullying-related incident. In his match against Atobe Tezuka was first to lose, on account of his shoulder being blown out because of his subtle tendencies in favoring his elbow, Something Atobe was very aware of.
    • Kirihara of Rikkaidai has been know to abuse his opponents by hitting them with high speed tennis shots during his matches. Often he likes to hit their kneecaps.
    • Played straight, subverted, Double Subverted, and Triple Subverted by Oishi, who helped save a pregnant woman but injures himself in the process. Unable to play, he instead asks Momoshiro (who had just been kicked out of the regulars) to take his place. This injury shows up again during the Nationals when Oishi challenges Ryoma for the final regular spot. He gets better by the time of the National Finals.
  • Captain Tsubasa also has several characters falling prey to them: Wakabayashi, Misaki (twice), Tsubasa (also twice), Wakashimazu, Dieter M?r, Tomeya Akai, the Tachibana twins, Ishizaki, etc. And like in the Tenipuri case, there are players experts into causing those wounds: Hyuga (though he stops doing so soon), Soda, Stefan Levin...
  • Terry Bogard injures his ankle right before being asked to fight Kim Kaphwan in Fatal Fury and was unable to use any sort of kicking attacks. He managed to come out on top. However, his fight against Krauser did not go as well and his injured legs played a major factor in this loss.
  • Guts' first encounters the Holy Iron Chain Knights in Berserk after getting the hell smacked out of him by Rosine. He still manages to kill several of them before getting knocked out.
    • The Knights were really lucky to get away with so few casualties considering A). The Knights consist mostly of undertrained nobles (whose parents wanted them to serve in the military without actually, you know, getting HURT!) and B). Guts is also known as "The Hundred Man Slayer"... This is not an exaggeration. (It's also not his career total - it's from one fight.)
    • Unfortunately for the Knights, the next they meet him, Guts is in prime condition, having spent several days recovering in a sacred spring and had his BFS reforged.
  • During a supposedly easy mission, Nanoha Takamachi was gravely injured in this manner. This caused her to change the cadets' training curriculum, so while they will still be going through hell, they won't be weakened too much to become seriously injured. Then there's what Shamal does to her...
  • In Eyeshield 21, Hiruma was forced to play the second half of the Deimon-Hakushuu game with a broken right arm after a fateful run-in with Hakushuu lineman Rikiya Gaou. Hiruma, is right handed and the quarterback of his team, but because he's HIRUMA, he still manages to pull the Devil Bats through for the win.
    • Sena's legs were already pushed past their limits (to the point his legs were burning up so much that stream was literally coming out of his legs) at keeping up with Agon and he continued on to play throughout the entire again despite the pain.
  • Utterly hilarious variation from CLANNAD. Yukine's gang prepares for a showdown with a rival group, and Nagisa suggest having a snack- her mother's bread with a certain infamous jam. The gang is instantly KO'ed, leaving Tomoya to fight solo.
  • In Ranma ˝, Akane injures her hand while punching down a wall in exasperation. Dr. Tofu fixes it, but warns her not to punch ANYTHING for a while. As she walks back home, she punches the air... and out of nowhere comes the Dojo Destroyer, stepping into the path of her fist, causing her to injure it again. Worse, she was just getting ready to defend the Tendo Dojo from that same guy later in the day. To add insult to injury, the Dojo Destroyer fights exclusively by wielding signs from conquered dojos as weapons, something that an uninjured Akane would have had very little trouble with.
  • GaoGaiGar has an odd example, in that the Game-Breaking Injury was the hero's Finishing Move. Every use of Hell and Heaven strains Shishioh Guy's cyborg body, eventually sending him to the emergency room several times and then warning him not to use it again lest he die. He was, naturally, nearly forced to use it on the next Zonder, but the Goldion Hammer was completed Just in Time.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward fights against #66, an executed convict with his soul bound to a suit of armour, with the binding rune in his helmet. Edward seemed to have won by knocking it off, but was stabbed in the side when it turns out two souls were in the armour (one controlling the head, one controlling the body). Not only was Edward exhausted, but now he was heavily losing blood, and only barely managed to win.
    • Only a few pages later, Edward was confronted with the homonculus Envy. He tried to attack, but the combination of a missing bolt and the wear-and-tear of the previous battle caused his automail arm to fail. Luckily Envy only punched him in the gut and let him live.
    • Anytime Ed's Automail arm breaks or gets destroyed counts as this, as it prevents him from using Alchemy. Mind you, he's still pretty tough, and more than capable of kicking ass with only one arm, but... well, in this series, you need every advantage you can get in a fight.
  • Monster, in the battle between Inspector Lunge and Roberto, where Lunge forces his thumb into a bullet wound his opponent has taken in order to subdue him. Very rare in that Lunge was a Face at the time, and it was one of the more cringe-worthy versions of it, especially in the anime.
  • In the Tales of Symphonia manga, Lloyd claims that he didn't truly win in his last duel with Kratos because he was weakened from the injury he received defending him.
  • Naruto: According to Jugo, Sasuke had trouble facing Killer Bee because the wounds he sustained fighting Itachi hadn't properly healed. Later revealed by Bee's various transformations, Sasuke had no chance either way since Killer Bee was just on too high a level for him. Earlier on, the curse mark serves as a Game-Breaking Injury, popping up whenever Sasuke uses too much chakra, and causing him to double over in pain.
    • Also, Gaara delivered a major one to Rock Lee, not only shattering his left arm and leg, but pieces of the bones were imbedded in his spinal column. If not for the fifth hokage, he would have lost his ninja career, his life's dream, and probably his spirit.
    • Lee came close to having it happen again in his fight with Gensho. The latter nearly crushed his leg bone with a cross-block.
    • Obito suffers one from Kakashi during their battle in the Kamui realm. Obito gets stabbed through the chest by a Raikiri charged kunai, leaving him vulnerable to Madara's body control jutsu through the chakra rods embedded in his body. Ultimately subverted though that Obito not only lives but gets stronger since he becomes the Ten-Tails Jinchuriki. However, Kakashi suffered two stabs and hasn't been able to exit the Kamui Realm, thus he may have received a Game-Breaking Injury from Obito.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has the eye injury sustained by Lockon Stratos in an earlier battle become a significant factor in his death at the hands of Ali Al-Saachez, who takes advantage of the blind spot it creates to deal a crushing blow to his mech, forcing Lockon to abandon it and shoot Ali manually, exposing himself to return fire in the process.
  • In Basilisk, Gennosuke has the best ability of them all — with his gaze he can command his enemies to kill themselves or each other. He gets to demonstrate it early on against some mooks but soon after has his eyes blinded and sealed shut for 7 days, making him unable to use it and rendering him mostly useless for the rest of the series. Liberal use of his ability would have made it too easy for his clan to win the battle. Oboro has her own Magical Eye which nullifies the abilities of any ninja. This too would have given her clan a clear edge in the battle, but she too becomes blinded (though for her it was deliberate so she would not have to fight Gennosuke) for 7 days.
  • In Holyland, a villain gunning to take down Yuu and Masaki sends two hard-hitting gangsters to ambush Masaki on his way to their final showdown. Although Masaki trashes the pair, his leg gets injured and the villain's main enforcer is able to beat him as a result. This allows Yuu to be Big Damn Heroes when he shows up and subsequently defeats the enforcer.
    • Another example, Osada and Yoshito kicked Yuu's legs until he could not use them to support his weight. Yuu later learns to use it himself.
  • In The iDOLM@STER, Azusa gets the mumps a few days before a show.
  • In Pokémon Special, Red decides to turn down the position of Viridian Gym Leader because of the painful frostbite he sustained from the previous year's battle against the Elite Four. He does get better, but not before giving the position to Green.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Chrono, arguably the most powerful character in the series, suffered this in the backstory. Aion tore off Chrono's horns during a Single-Stroke Battle. Chrono nearly perished afterwards since demons need their horns to absorb astral power. Chrono only survived by making a contract with Mary Magdelene and later Rosette, which has the consequence of draining the life of the contractor. In the present, Chrono stays in Sleep Mode Size most of the time to prolong Rosette's life, though she is still doomed to die at an early age. Merely transforming into his more powerful true form is taxing on Rosette, and tapping into his full power could kill her in minutes.
  • In Jojos Bizarre Adventure, this is how Jonathan Joestar met his end. Dio managed to pierce Jonathan's throat, mortally wounding him and preventing him from using his Ripple, which relies on breath control. Jonathan is still able to pull off one last Ripple. It was so weak that it couldn't even fully destroy a single zombie, but it was enough.

     Comic Books  
  • In Bowling King, this happened to main character Shautieh Ley literally every time he played for most of the series; In his game with Edgar, he had contracted a fever and was running on several days without sleep. In his match with Jen Ni, his elbow was broken by some of Jen's thugs before the game. In the qualifying game for the God's Hand Cup, he accidentally drank some milk before the game and, being lactose intolerant, well... In the semifinals, he had twisted his ankle falling down some stairs. With the exception of the first one, he won every time.
  • Batman once had his back broken by Bane putting him out of action for quite a while.
    • In fact, the Game Breaking Injury was Bane's entire plan to get Batman to the point where he could give him that broken back. He deliberately got all the other villains in Gotham causing chaos in a very short period of time, thereby ensuring that Batman wasn't running at anything close to 100%.

    Film 

     Live Action Television  
  • Burn Notice: Michael Westen is a ridiculously badass spy. Doesn't stop him from nearly getting his ass kicked by a wannabe-badass street drug dealer in the pilot when the guy punches him in his broken ribs.
  • It's implied that PC Penhale from Doc Martin used to be a city cop (and/or a better cop) before being kicked in the head by a horse on a call. It messed him up quite badly, resulting in narcolepsy, agoraphobia, and mood swings that ruined his marriage.
  • In an episode of NCIS, Gibbs calls upon his mentor Mike Franks to help with a case. While at Gibbs' house, Mike hears a noise, goes to investigate, and ends up confronting the Port-to-Port Killer. Mike manages to shoot him in the leg, but dies in the street after being stabbed with a scalpel. Gibbs later discovers that Franks was dying of lung cancer, and had only weeks to live. This is actually a double Game-Breaking Injury, since Franks lost his trigger finger in a gunfight not long before this, which is why the Port-to-Port Killer survived bringing a knife to a gunfight.

    Literature 
  • Westley has a game-breaking condition in The Princess Bride, but uses To the Pain to win regardless.
  • This is Older Than Print. In King Arthur legends, this is how Sir Gawain of Orkney dies. He had an old head wound that was nearly fatally reopened in a fight with Sir Lancelot. Lancelot refused to fight him while he was wounded and sent him to his tent to recover. Ironically, he was nearly healed when news that Mordred had taken over Camelot came. He insisted on going to war with his king, but had his head wound reopened AGAIN in a small skirmish with a bunch of untrained peasants on his way to a ship. He died minutes after the fight was over.
  • In Memories of Ice, the third book in Malazan Book of the Fallen, the only reason Whiskeyjack dies is because he had not healed his hurt leg. In Toll The Hounds, book eight, it is revealed that Hood, the god of death himself, personally manipulated events as revenge for a particular slight.
  • In Changes, there seems to be one when Harry breaks his back, but the person gets Power at a Price from Queen Mab to be healed, among other things. We see later in Ghost Story that the choice wasn't exactly fair since Lucifer interfered.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jaime Lannister's sword hand is chopped off. While this is a serious blow to him since his swordsmanship was a huge part of his identity, this event also serves as the catalyst for some serious Character Development. He's still trying to get over this by training to fight left-handed, but it's not going very well.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Rana is badly injuried at the start and then overuse of her electric powers sends her into a coma. Because of that she is missing from many battles and the narration often notes that she is not at full strength. This was necessary because a substantial degree of the previous book's plot was Daniar recruiting her because of her tremendous power.

     Professional Wrestling  
  • Submission artists employ this tactic all the time. They will use a variety of locks and holds that target a specific part of the human body until it becomes too painful to use.
    • The Undertaker is very good at selling this trope, often to the point of setting up his finisher only to stop because his knee or foot collapses in pain.
  • A variation of this is when a wrestler (almost always a face) is injured days (or even weeks) before the match begins and is clearly not 100%. The heel will then target that particular body part in the hopes of permanently damaging that foe to the point that they can't continue. This happened A LOT with the Rock for some reason. In 1999, he fought several matches with a supposedly broken arm after Triple H attacked him. In late 2000, during his feud with Rikishi, The Rock had been hit by Rikishi with a sledgehammer in the chest. In 2002, during his feud with Hulk Hogan, the Rock's ribs were injured and taped up.
  • Some matches have a high tendency to cause this, especially the scaffold match. Just competing in one of these matches contributed to Mick Foley's semi retirement at age 34.
  • CZW wrestler Sick Nick Mondo competed in insane, often disgusting hardcore matches incredibly frequently. He had to hang up the tights for good at age 24.
  • Bret Hart suffered multiple concussions over his career, but the last one was so severe that any blow to the head gave him another one. His health is so fragile that he cannot lift weights or fly in airplanes, let alone compete in the ring.
  • One of the more horrific injuries was Sid Vicious' compound fractures. For the squeamish, it was a small jump off the 2nd turnbuckle to deliver a one-footed kick to Scott Steiner, but his left foot landed wrong, resulting in his tibia and fibula breaking bad enough that his boot was hanging at an obtuse angle.

     Video Games  
  • In Assassin's Creed III, Connor suffers a Game-Breaking Injury with the final battle with Charles Lee. He chases him into a burning ship that was under construction and gets a piece of wood impaled through his stomach. Said injury disables him from even running for the rest of the game and even in the after game, his animation shows he's still injured.
  • The popular Fighting Game Def Jam: Fight for New York managed to integrate this strategy into their gameplay mechanics. Characters who specialized in the submission fighting style were able to target their opponents' limbs, and their overall durability was represented by a separate life meter. If the opposing player used a weakened limb to punch or kick, then the damage would greatly be reduced.
    • When Crow stabs you in the back after you storm his joint, you start the battle off with half health.
  • Resident Evil 2 began having their heroes' body language reflect their overall health. If they took too much damage then they would start limping and not move as fast as they normally do. If you were low in health and had to run away from a group of zombies or a huge boss then you were in for a rough night.
  • One of the trailers for Warhammer: Age of Reckoning features a rather one-sided battle between a Chaos warrior and a Sigmarite Warrior-Priest. lhe Latter is on his knees, having taken a nasty blow to the side, when suddenly his eyes and weapon come alive with a holy fire. The Chaos warrior just cocks his head and knees him in the injured side. You can watch the whole thing on www.blur.com
  • In Rainbow Six, getting wounded slows you down and decreases your aim accuracy. In Rogue Spear and later games, the characters are actually shown limping.
  • Similarly in Operation Flashpoint, taking a wound in the arm would make it more difficult to aim. A wound in the legs could just slow you down, or make it outright impossible to stand at all.
  • In The Godfather: The Game you can shoot someone in the knee to drop him to a kneel. A second shot there is almost always a kill.
  • Done in-plot in Yggdra Union. Once the Royal Army has finally dispatched the corrupt priests blocking the way for Yggdra to get crowned, Gulcasa and the Imperial Army suddenly show up and attack you. Although the Royal Army tries to stall for time while the coronation is performed, Gulcasa proceeds to hand you your ass until his body very suddenly starts to give out on him due to side effects of the ritual where he assumed Brongaa's power. Fending him off becomes much more manageable, but being his stubborn self, Gulcasa keeps fighting until his overtaxed body hits the breaker switch on him and he collapses.
  • Jubei suffers one of these off-screen in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift thanks to Phantom. Presumably this is a way to justify balancing him, the "strongest creature in the world" against the other characters in the inevitable sequel if he is playable.
  • In Deus Ex, damage to body parts cripples you a certain way, e.g. if your legs are shot out, you are reduced to crawling.
  • After the Final Boss of Crisis Core, Zack must fight his way through the entire Shin-ra Army. You start the fight out kicking ass left and right with no problem. But then the screen fades out. It cuts back in with several hours having gone by and far fewer enemies on the screen, but now Zack is reduced to limping and all of his attacks have a huge and interruptible windup. Three guesses how the fight ends.
  • Dead or Alive: Hayate suffered one prior to the first game after losing a Beam-O-War to Raidou; the resulting energy shockwave flung him into a tree and broke his spine, paralyzing him and rendering him unable to take over as leader of the Mugen Tenshin Clan. However, after he is captured by Victor Donovan and subjected to Project Epsilon, his mobility is restored.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, a character can be crippled by wounds to different parts of the body. For example, broken arms can leave someone unable to wield weapons or shields, a severed motor nerve in the leg can leave someone unable to stand, eye injuries cause blindness, etc. Fortunately, multiple weapons and shields can be equipped to the same hand, and crutches can be used to regain standing ability, albeit at the cost of a speed penalty.
  • Blood Storm averts this awesomely. The enemy can cut off all your limbs and leave you a quivering heap on the floor, sliding around on your intestines, but you can still win the fight, using only headbutts.
  • In the Medal of Honor series, allies and enemies limp or crawl when severely injured, however the player doesn't suffer from this.
  • In Demons Souls, the Game Breaking Injury is death. When you get revived in the Nexus, it brings you back as a ghost that has only half the maximum health your physical self has. This is unavoidable in the tutorial since this is how you get bound to the Nexus in the first place.
  • In Dark Souls, the Great Grey Wolf Sif slowly limps in pain when he is near death. In the special edition, Sif's friend the Wolf knight Artorias' Abyssal corruption forces him to fight with only one arm. He still manages to put up one hell of a fight.
    • Fans have theorized that Artorias' injury is the only thing that makes him feasibly beatable by players. Fighting him with a functional shield arm and his darkness-nullifying shield would probably be even more one-sided.
  • In God of War II, Kratos is crushed by the outstretched arm of the Colossus after he defeated it using the Blade of Olympus. Kratos had just turned himself into a mortal again by feeding all of his godly power into the Blade. Then Zeus appears to reclaim the Blade and slay Kratos since the entire struggle in Rhodes was a scheme to preemptively remove any threat Kratos might pose to Olympus. Kratos tries to fight back — but since he was nearly crushed to death by a huge statue seconds ago, he's in pretty bad shape. He's limping, unable to jump or run, and he can barely swing his blades.
  • Tomb Raider (2013): Within the opening minutes of the game, Lara is impaled in the gut by a piece of rebar. The wound getting irritated or worse slows her down more than once throughout the game until she can find a way to patch herself up.
  • In Fallout, the player's body parts can be crippled. Crippled legs slow you down, crippled arms hinder your aim, a crippled torso reduces Endurance, and a crippled head causes reduced Perception, periodic vision blur, and ear-ringing.

     Western Animation  
  • The opening scene of Batman Beyond has this happen to Bruce Wayne, when his bad heart (and his deteriorating physical state in general, from all the injuries he'd sustained over his years as Batman) finally catches up to him during a fight with some kidnappers and he is forced to use a gun to make the last attacker step down.note 
  • In Transformers: The Movie, during Optimus Prime and Megatron's final battle, Megatron is aware he is losing the fight and starts tossing rocks at Optimus. He then throws a shard of metal from a ship at him, cutting his side open, taking advantage of the injury and making it worse by slicing open the wound with an energon sword. Later on while holding Hot Rod hostage, he shoots him in the same wound and also in the chest and face fatally wounding him, but just before he passes out he manages to knock Megatron off a cliff, severely wounding him.
    • The damage inflicted on Megatron in the battle is so severe that he cannot defend himself from Starscream's treachery the way he usually does when Starscream tosses him into space on the way back to Cybertron.
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars has General Grevious being ridiculously impressive and highly adept at combat... and in the last episode, Mace Windu uses the Force to crush his chest, nearly killing him. Cue Revenge of the Sith, where he's coughing and wheezing painfully and jobs to everyone.
  • In Transformers Animated Megatron spends the entire first season in traction after Starscream planted a bomb on him in the first episode and he burned up on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. Megatron's efforts to fix his Game Breaking Injury make up a good chunk of the first season's plot, and they do pay off in the end. In the series finale Starscream posthumously screws over Megatron again with bombs he planted in the Omega Supreme clones. Megatron survives, but he is in such poor condition that Optimus curbstomps him.
    • Big Good Ultra Magnus is torn apart by Shockwave, leaving Sentinel Prime in charge of the Elite Guard. Word of God confirms that Ultra Magnus died from his wounds.
  • After prolonged exposure to a toxic form of Energon, severe injuries during battle, and a laser to the back, Bulkhead of Transformers Prime is left comatose, but alive. It took a long time for him to recover.

     Real Life  
  • Y.A. Tittle, the trope illustrator, had just taken a brutal tackle by John Baker of the Pittsburgh Steelers which gave him a concussion and a cracked sternum during his final season of play. Tittle went on to play the rest of the season, but admitted years later the injury was enough to tell him there were no comebacks in the future.
  • Gloriously subverted by the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 45. Not only did they come into the game missing 8 of their 22 regular starters, but two of their top players on offense (Donald Driver) and defense (Charles Woodson) left the game in the second quarter leading to both men reportedly giving fiery speeches about overcoming adversity at halftime... it worked.
  • During the 1970 NBA finals Willis Reed played in game 7 with a torn hamstring, an injury which would plague him for years and lead to an early end to his career.
  • Right before the 1994 Olympics, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the kneecap by Shane Stant, a man hired by Tonya Harding's ex-husband. Kerrigan would win the silver medal a month later.
    • The gold medalist that year, Oksana Baiul, was also competing injured thanks to an accident at a warm-up event.
  • In professional hockey, teams worry that opposing players will deliberately target an injured player's weak spots and so they give injury information in the vaguest possible terms. An "Upper Body Injury" can be anything from a broken arm to a sinus infection to a concussion.
    • Amazingly subverted in the case of Bobby Baun of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In game six of the Stanley Cup Finals, Baun, who broke his leg earlier in the game, skated on for the overtime and scored the game winning goal. This would propel the Leafs into a game 7 Stanley Cup victory over their opponents.
  • The Minnesota Vikings' Ron Yary was notorious for playing in spite of injuries, particularly the occasion in the 1981 season where he played with a broken foot. Not that this managed to affect his performance at all...
    • Don't forget Brett Favre, whose noted "Ironman Streak" of Most Consecutive Starts at any non-special teams NFL position (297 regular season; 321 including postseason) involved both injured and broken throwing-hand bones and ankles.
    • Similarly, the Dallas Cowboys' Rayfield Wright came into the 1975 season with a weak knee and managed to shake the most powerful defensive ends in the league regardless.
    • Jack Youngblood of the Los Angeles Rams actually played every single play on defense during Super Bowl XIV against the all-powerful Pittsburgh Steelers with a taped up broken leg. Considering that it was the Rams' first title game appearance in years, it was probably justifiable, as there is was no way he was going to miss the most important game of his life.
    • Not only that, he played in the Pro Bowl that year too.
  • Bill Buckner was actually off the field for much of the sixth game of the 1986 world series, because of his severely injured knees. Manager John McNamara reportedly sent him out because he thought Buckner deserved to be on the field for the Sox series win... Whoops.
  • Normally, a torn ACL and a fractured tibia would be two of these. Tiger Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open on a leg with both. No small feat in professional golf, where you're required to walk four miles a day for four days (and he had to stretch it to a fifth because the U.S. Open requires a full 18-hole round as a tie-breaker).
  • Robert DiPierdomenico and Dermott Brereton both suffered these during the early stages of the 1989 AFL Grand Final. Brereton was shortly after the match began but was able to kick three goals while concussed and broken ribs.
    • DiPierdomenico broke several ribs and punctured a lung. He played out the game without even knowing how badly hurt he was and collapsed shortly after the match finished.
  • During the 2004 Olympics, Russian judoka Dmitri Nossov lost the semifinal, cutting his eyebrow muscle and seriously injuring his left arm. He still won a bronze medal using just the remaining arm.
  • Football player Franz Beckenbauer played The "Game of the Century" against Italy in the 1970 World Cup semi-finals with his arm in a sling, because Germany had already used their two player substitutions.
    • However, some other players weren't so lucky. Pelé only played two games in 1962 after injuring his groin on a play, and in 1966 got chased by violent defenders of both Bulgaria (who made him miss the following game) and Portugal (who left him limping on the field as substitutions only came in 1970). And in 2014, Neymar had a broken vertebra after getting kneeled in the back by an adversary.
  • Kurt Angle famously won a gold medal with a broken freakin' neck.
  • Good tactics in pretty much any type of equally-matched one-on-one REAL fight to the death involving blades. As opposed to working for that tidy one-shot to the chest, neck, or head. Once your opponent is bleeding out, his form is bound to suffer. That's assuming your foe's limbs are all still attached. And this can be done without closing in enough for him to land a Mutual Kill! Hollywood, however, disagrees.
    • Doubly so in knife fights, since one-shot kills with knives are a bit harder to come by.
  • NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty once drove a then-Winston Cup race with a broken back.
  • In Super Bowl XXXIX, Donovan McNabb completed a pass to Terrell Owens, giving him an open-field run to the endzone. However, Owens hadn't fully recovered from a leg injury from earlier in the season, so instead of scoring a touchdown like he would have on a healthy leg, a Patriot defender was able to catch up and tackle him from behind. The Eagles proceeded to fumble on the next play and went on to lose the game by 3.
  • The 2012 NBA season, coming right out of a lockout, is now notorious for various injuries ultimately benching players from any team. More often than not, they were forced to sit out on the rest of a playoff series, or missed the playoffs entirely.
    • Chicago Bulls had Derrick Rose tear an ACL in his left knee; he was supposed to be back by at least February of 2013... but wound up not playing at all for the rest of that season.
    • Joakim Noah, also of the Bulls, sprained his ankle about a game after Rose went down. He missed out on the final two games of the series, where Philly beat Chicago.
    • Avery Bradley, of the Celtics, needed surgery on his shoulder, and he missed out on the Eastern Conference Finals with Miami.
    • The Oklahoma City Thunder had Eric Maynor, a backup point guard, tear his own ACL prior to the playoffs.
    • Miami Heat had Chris Bosh straining his abdominal, but he returned just in time for the end of the Eastern Conference Finals versus Boston.
    • New York Knicks had rookie Iman Shumpert also tearing his own ACL during Game 1 against Miami.
    • Knicks veteran Baron Davis also screwed his own ACL and dislocated his patella.
    • Ricky Rubio, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, tore his ACL and LCL after colliding with Kobe Bryant.
    • Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic harmed his back prior to the playoffs.
    • Not to make a point, but LeBron James and Dwyane Wade never got injured throughout the whole season. Shockingly, they won the title at the end of the year.
  • For tennis players, the physical demands of nearly a full year of constant play all too often leads to injury and them having to either withdraw from tournaments or do their best to play on bum knees or pulled hamstrings. In extreme cases, it can sideline a player's career for years, like with Juan Martín del Potro's wrist problems severely hindering his play for at least two years. In the worst cases, it can derail a player's career outright like with Maureen Connolly (although her injury was non-tennis-related) and Mary Pierce.
  • Figure skater Evgeni Plushenko forced to withdrew only minutes before performing short program at the 2014 Winter Olympics because he aggravates his chronic spinal injury, in which the steel bolts implanted in his spine from the recent surgery snapped because of a botched-up jump in the warmup.

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