"AS GOD IS MY WITNESS, HE IS BROKEN IN HALF!"In fighting anime, superhero comics, and kung fu movies, characters are often stronger and tougher than any normal person has the right to be. This makes for more interesting concepts, because it automatically limits the field of people who can deal with a particular problem, forcing our heroes into the fray. But when this concept is taken to its logical extreme, you end up with a new problem: You have no clue who is winning. When two supercharged beings hit each other with enough force to shatter a brick wall, but can take it because they are Nigh Invulnerable, we have no way of knowing if the blow was significant or not. The character may reel, but after a moment he's back in the fight as if it had never happened. This is easy to accept at first, but if the fight goes on too long, you start getting lost, and the end of the fight becomes somewhat anti-climactic, since — unless the writer finds an elegant way to make the fight's conclusion clearly decisive — it's just an exchange of blows until one of them randomly takes a blow seemingly no different than any other and collapses. This can be especially damaging to the Willing Suspension of Disbelief when the Sorting Algorithm of Evil is in play: you never get to personally witness the assured growth in potency of the heroes and villains alike. You know this is occurring when you, J. Random Viewer, have no idea which moves are supposed to be the killer unbeatable finishers and which are just throwaway moves and desperation attacks; or who has the advantage and who's on the ropes. It's almost like the combatants are fighting not to win, but to entertain and impress some invisible audience of spectators. But that would be silly, right? The visual interpretation of combat in most Video Games follows this trope to a T. In many, characters literally show no signs of weakening (with perhaps the exception of a weakened pose when they drop to a certain number of Hit Points) but this rarely causes any decrease in power. Until you suffer a Critical Existence Failure, you're just as effective as you ever were. This is acceptable in video games because it allows for a lot of combat in the game without having the hero party mend their wounds for a week after each fight, lest they become increasingly ineffective against a large supply of monsters that are only ever encountered with full hit points. Plus video games usually have a visible health bar so you know what attacks are doing the most damage and how much more the hero can take. Obviously, the breaking point on this can be a bit subjective. When one side is getting all the damage and you still are wondering (slightly nauseated) how much more he can take, the trope is No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. See also My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours and Rasputinian Death.
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Anime and Manga
- Heroic Age is essentially about super-huge reptilian monster things called Nodos that can (and do) destroy small moons with a single attack. This overwhelming power really makes itself apparent when two Nodos are engaged in battle for over 300 hours. That's nearly two weeks of pummeling each other over and over again with enough force to rend a small celestial body in half. And near the climax of the fight, neither one seems any worse for the wear.
- Nearly all fights in Dragon Ball Z from Frieza on. Dragon Ball itself generally ended the fights shortly before it got to this level.
- The fight at the end of the Saiyan saga actually showed what Goku and Vegeta's limits were; getting stepped or landed on by a 50 tall ape is apparently too much.
- Vegeta is the king of this trope. No matter what anyone throws at him, he just won't stay down! Heck, he and Frieza are the only canon characters that have ever stood up after being hit by the Spirit Bomb! The first time he died, it took a blast straight through the heart to finally get the job done, and even then, it took a few minutes for him to actually die!
- Saiyans in general seem to have very durable bodies. Goku had all his limbs broken or disabled and was still able to beat King Piccolo and Piccolo. He also got beaten so badly by King Piccolo that his heart stopped and restarted on its own. He got hit multiple times in pressure points and got up after a few seconds with only minor pain. When Goku and Raditz were hit by Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon it took Goku several minutes to die despite having a giant hole in his chest (or a giant burn mark in the Kai version). Piccolo had to crush Raditz's head in to kill him quickly since, hole or no hole, he was still able to talk and brag. Goku got pummeled to a pulp by Frieza for several episodes and still had the endurance to become Super Saiyan without fainting, something that is supposed to be highly exhausting the first time. Not to mention, Gohan got his freaking neck broken and was still alive.
- Justified with Majin Buu, since he's basically a giant wad of chewing gum.
- Also by Cell, who is all a dull grey clay underneath all the campy colours and has regenerative properties that are second only to Buu in its various incarnations. And even then, when Cell is hit hard enough all it takes is a few hits and he physically breaks down - notably being unable to stand up properly for a while after an unchecked body shot.
- Naruto normally does a decent job of avoiding this since most characters focus more on avoiding hits than taking them and even the strongest enemy can't just sit there and take things like knives without flinching, but several fights stand out, particularly the conflict between Naruto and Sasuke right before the filler. It's pretty much a fight to see who can get up more times from a rock-shattering blow.
- Later 6-Tails Naruto vs. Pain's last animated corpse has the only real indication of who was winning being who had to rely on their Super-Powered Evil Side first, with the whole fight escalating until they were both using all that they could. Then it ended after one attack.
- Sasuke and Naruto's second climactic fight at the end of the manga one ups their first, especially on Naruto's side. Sasuke literally starts screaming at him to fall already.
- It's a good thing people watch Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo for the humor, because the bizarre fighting styles make it almost impossible to tell what moves are supposed to be powerful enough to finish off an opponent. (In early episodes, it was usually by following up a particularly confusing sequence with a direct nose hair attack.)
- Sort of used with Lampshade Hanging in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. Both combatants think that they're losing and wonder if they will to be forced to use their ultimate weapon.
- Basically the default form of combat in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. It demonstrates how well video-game-style fights translate to a non-video-game medium: Not well.
- This is averted Advent Children Complete. Many scenes were revised, and fights now show battle damage.
- This is played painfully straight in Devil Hunter Yohko: each of the demons is assuredly stronger than its predecessor, but when they're functionally identically sacks of muscle and claw, this is only apparent to the viewer when the protagonists give up earlier than before after going through a Strictly Formula battle scene before the My Name Is Inigo Montoya moment.
- Ultimate Muscle. Sure, that "Ultimate Muscle" power can account for a sudden comeback, and the protagonist's sheer Heroic Resolve probably counts for something... but somewhere around the third time he gets thrashed until he can barely stand up, only to start fighting back a few minutes later with renewed energy, it just gets ridiculous.
- Hell, that's nothing. In the original Kinnikuma's tag-team arc, Terryman gets impaled by floor tiles decorated with swords twice. The first time is painful, but the second time is bad enough to kill him. He gets better.
- Rurouni Kenshin, the battle between Sanosuke and Monk Anji has the two trading Futai no Kiwami blows, each supposed to be able to pulverize rocks into dust. The final blow? Sano develops the succession move to the Futai no Kiwami on the spot. Kenshin acknowledges that neither fighter should be on their feet and that it is their will and not their bodies keeping them up, and after Sano wins the fight, he is the one in need of medical attention and is out of commission for some time because the repeated blows almost killed him.
- This happens a little later in Kenshin's final battle with Shishioh, after taking multiple hits from Kenshin's ultimate technique and being struck directly in the face by a Futai no Kiwami. Eventually it ends with Shishio helpless on the ground, being protected by Yumi whom he takes advantage of by stabbing her to seriously wound Kenshin. With both of them on the ground, various members of the team states that the first one to get up will win easily, as the other will be helpless. Kenshin totally collapses, bleeding out, and Shishio manages to stand, maniacally cackling as he thinks he's won before bursting into flames (his body heat became so intense that it caused the fats and oils in his blood to ignite, as he has no sweat glands). Holy shit.
- Pretty much the only way to tell if a blow is a 'finishing' one in the One Piece manga if it is a two-page spread that shows the person actively getting pummeled. People may still get up after this, but you know those moves meant something. The most severe example of this would have to be the fight between Luffy and Rob Lucci; by the end, Luffy was unable to even move and Lucci was in a coma.
- One Piece has fallen into this recently thanks to its "Whitebeard pirates VS marines" battle: when a large quantity of characters have been shot, stabbed and still getup, and each of these characters have unique superpowers you need to pay attention to it's really difficult to decide which side is winning. As a whole the 'theme' of the Marineford arc seems to have been 'everyone loses except Blackbeard'
- In YuYu Hakusho, Yusuke and Chu have one. This is after spending all their spirit energy on various attacks and utterly pulverizing each other with energy attacks and such, and they can't even use their spirit attacks anymore. There's also a catch: Not only can they not move at all or they agree to forfeit, but their back heel is resting against a knife, and if one of the fighters did step back, the other would take the knife that was now between them and stab him with it. Every hit that they each take knocks their foot into the knife, causing immense pain. Eventually Yusuke wins after Chu tries to finish him with a mammoth headbutt. Yusuke intentionally just takes the attack and Chu is knocked out.
- In The Prince of Tennis, Kabaji and Kawamura's match in the Hyoutei arc is literally like this. And it WAS a part of Kawamura's Batman Gambit, who since the beginning wanted to force Kabaji into a draw. To some degree, also Kawamura's match against Gin Ishida. And it worked too... but pretty much by fluke.
- A beatdown of this sort happens between the two Rival Protagonists in the last few minutes of the final episode of the anime s-CRY-ed. It winds up being far more brutal than anything the villains ever put them through, — almost offputtingly so.
- The Dio Brando-versus-Joutarou Kujou Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure part 3 is perhaps one of the most overlooked examples (WRYYYYYYYY and the steamroller eclipse it, but are aspects of it). The sequence danced gleefully into this territory (STEAMROLLER) and never left until the battle was over. Not only do you get Jojo and Dio trying to out-beatdown one another, you get then trying to outsmart, and eventually out-TIMESTOP one another, culminating in a simultaneous-punches-connect-simultaneously that holds off the conclusion JUST LONG ENOUGH...
- Happens between Shirou and Kotomine Kirei in the finale of the Heaven's Feel route of Fate/stay night, while both of them are virtually dead, nonetheless - Kirei's heart was destroyed by Sakura two days ago, and Shirou is all but overtaken/corrupted by Archer's arm, which is quite literally turning his body into swords because he used its projection capacities. The fight is basically two walking corpses brutally beating each other to death. Shirou wins, but only because Kirei's time runs out first, just as he's about to kill him. Shirou (possibly) follows suit under a minute later, though, and the Tear Jerker ending expands on this concept...
- And a route before that in Unlimited Blade Works, we have Shirou vs. Archer. Outclassed in skill and power, has a broken arm, a broken leg, shattered fingers, is bleeding profusely, and is much to his opponent's surprise, still able to parry and attack.
- Don't even try guessing who is winning on Hellsing. Even if someone has been decapitated, shot in the head, impaled a bajillion times and stuck to the wall, they've still got it under control. The fact that everyone in the series has From a Single Cell regeneration and are Nigh Invulnerable to boot makes it difficult, but there is a rule of thumb- has Alucard done something so far beyond badass it comes out the other side and ends up being silly yet? He's probably losing. But he'll win in the end.
- Except for his final battle, which is so far beyond weaksauce it comes out the other side and ends up being deeply compelling.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! normally made sure to emphasize the character's mortality during combat (such as things like sharpened stone spears being fatal like they should be). Then the match between Negi & Kotaro against Kagetaro & Rakan came about and threw all that out the window.
- The match started with Rakan being pummeled by magically-enforced punches moving at over lightning speed, being driven into the ground with a concentrated blast of tropical squall-level winds, then culminating in being at the center of an explosion of lightning with enough heat to vapourize small mountains. He got back up. Then proceeded to beat the person who did it to him with punches of enough strength to kill high-level dragons and shatter large sections of earth. (Supposedly, by this point, his organs should've been turned to mush; High-Pressure Blood from the Mouth was in order). On Kotaro's end, he was stabbed through his arms, legs, and torso, then later got slashed at several key points on his body by a a lot of BFSs, ultimately being impaled through his back-to-chest with a sword larger than his head. His answer? Really good Healing Factor. The person who stabbed him? Got pinned to a wall with Anti-Magic BFSs.
- In the end, both Negi and Rakan ended up running out of magic before they took down the other guy, so they ended up engaging in Good Old Fisticuffs. At that point, they both fainted from exhaustion. Of course, Rakan is essentially physics, magic, and logic defying power distilled into human form, so this kind of thing is really to be expected from him. From Negi, however...
- In Black Lagoon, Revy and Roberta end up settling their differences in a fistfight that ends up being a very good example of this trope. The end result is draw by Cross Counter (although Roberta isn't knocked out, which technically makes her the winner).
- Pretty much every one of Kenichi's major opponents is astounded by his ridiculous ability to get up time after time.
- Clannad After Story has a fight that lasts from dawn until after dark in episode 8.
- Ippo is notable for three things, strength (he punches way above his weight class), stamina, and an iron will. In a long bout, this trope is very much in evidence, as Ippo just never gives up, and can take a lot of punishment. The scariest thing for his opponents, after the intensity in his eyes, is that his punches just don't die.
- In chapter 87 of Claymore, we see a claymore who is seemingly curbstomping Isley : she cuts him with a BFS, nearly destroy half of his body without being injured... then we see her thought and realise that the situation is exactly the opposite, it's Isley who is winning this battle.
No matter how much I sink my blades in his body, no matter much I sliced the bastard up, I don't get the slightest sense that I can defeat him. In fact, the more I drive my blades through his flesh, the surer I felt that his blade will come slicing straight back at my body with still greater force.
- Unlike the game series it's based on, the Pokémon anime, is generally able to avoid Critical Existence Failure as it has more freedom to visibly depict a Pokemon's condition as a battle goes on. This combined with the relative fast pace of most battles allows the anime to avert this trope usually. But there are still many occasions where battles drag out with none of the combatants appearing to be close to fainting despite getting hit with multiple attacks, even powerful or super-effective ones that should lead to K.O. It can get so bad that sometimes, one Pokemon can land many strong moves that are clearly damaging, on the opponent without K.O'ing them yet get hit by one and be down for the count. It's especially common in knockout battles involving more than 1 Pokemon or battles between super strong trainers and Pokemon. And it's all but guaranteed to kick in during scuffles between Legendary Pokemon.
- In one of the later ElfQuest stories there's an entire chapter in which Cutter and Rayek settle their ancient grudge by beating the crap out of each other in the troll caverns. At first they're just using fists and feet, but as the fight goes on it escalates to the point where they're bashing each other with huge chunks of rock. Even when Rayek is half-dead from all the punishment he refuses to give up, telling Cutter that he "hasn't had enough". Actually there's method in his madness - what Rayek means is that Cutter hasn't had enough revenge yet. He knows the only way he can ever settle the quarrel once and for all is by letting Cutter almost kill him.
- Jango Fett's backstory/tribute comic ends with him and his lifelong archnemesis brutally beating each other down on a spaceship and then on the planet below. This fight mostly refrains from the "two supercharged beings no discernible damage" part of the trope listed above: both of them take a beating and show it (especially after Fett slashes Vizsla's belly open).
- The Punisher regularly suffers injuries that would render a normal man utterly comatose, if not dead. This is because he is Made of Iron. Once in the MAX series, a shotgun blast blew one of his ribs clean out (!) and he kept on fighting.
- Batman has also suffered phenomenal physical trauma and kept going.
- Sin City characters are generally hard to put down. Marv is probably the main offender. In his original story, he gets run over with a car mutliple times in a row, gets beaten by a Serial Killer, and is still perfectly healthy enough to fight an entire SWAT team of federal agents... all in the span of one night. Cardinal Roark even mentioned how hard he was to stop.
- In his long superhero career, Spider-Man has been on the receiving end of beatdowns and suffered a great deal of pain during them, but on the count of his never-give-up spirit, he just keeps on fighting and fighting until he finds a way to win.
- The original incarnation of the Phoenix Saga had the X-Men fighting a team of Shi'ar champions as a means of Trial by Combat for Jean Grey. As Gladiator, the leader of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, faces off against the also invulnerable and super-strong Colossus, the narration lampshades this trope poetically; the two are described as titans, each one all but invulnerable, with blows so powerful that the match isn't decided by their combat prowess, but instead by the abandoned city collapsing around them due to the incidental structural damage they are causing. After several massive buildings fall on them both, Gladiator is just a little more invincible (probably because his powers are psionically fueled by willpower and devotion to his cause) but he pulls the defeated Colossus out of the rubble rather than leaving him to die.
- Features quite often in Zero with the titular character participating in some really brutal fights over the course of the series. One notable instance involves Zero fighting a retired agent on a rooftop, before giving chase and involving some Car Fu, going back to a fist fight after their cars crash, Zero getting stabbed in the eye, and ending with Zero slamming a car door repeatedly at his target's head.
- In Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams, the battles between Sleepwalker and Psyko tend to be vicious bloodbaths from which the participants emerge more dead than alive. It's made worse by their ability to warp physical objects, which lead to them flaying each other with sharpened steel spikes, smashing each other through concrete walls, electrocuting each other with high-voltage wires, and catching each other in the middle of exploding sewer pipes and tanker trucks, oftentimes all in the same battle.
- In the first story of the Facing The Future Series, Dark Danny and Future Danny are at a stand still until Dark Danny uses the intervention of Tucker and Valerie to his advantage. Even when Danny manages to unlock a powerful Super Mode that enables him to overpower Dark Danny, it's still not enough to stop him. He eventually got a boost of power when Vlad tried to use Tricked-Out Gloves to steal his energy. He eventually lost when Future Danny and Sam activated their Super Modes and Danny and Sam delivered a double punch to him, finally knocking him out.
- Superman versus the agents of Zod in Superman II. Exactly how much does being punched through a skyscraper hurt Superman? Incidentally this is why the tense moment at the end of that fight when Superman is believed to be dead completely fails to fool the audience, since by that point we've seen him go through worse and barely acknowledge it.
- This can even happen in movies about supposedly normal mortals:
- Bond and Trevelyan's fight at the end of GoldenEye.
- Rocky tends to fall into this trap, getting worse as time goes on; Rocky V is probably the worst offender.
- Rocky IV is bad, too. Ivan Drago managed to kill Apollo Creed with one of his punches, and Rocky is still able to hold him off for ten minutes screen time before his "come-from-behind" win.
- Face/Off: You would think that getting stabbed by a butterfly knife (and twist to make sure the wound won't close) would be enough to stop Castor Troy. No? How about a Harpoon to the gut? Still going? These guys didn't even slow down despite receiving wounds that at the very least should have made them limp.
- The (anti-)climactic fight scene in They Live where Nada and Frank spend a good five minutes pummelling each other in a parking lot. Given they're fighting on a concrete surface you'd probably expect broken bones by the minute mark, nevermind when they start with the suplexes.
- The Chronicles of Riddick, in the final duel; except that rather than showing no signs of weakening, Riddick kept seeming to leap back from You Can Barely Stand to full strength. This may be justified, as it happens right after he sees his daughter-figure murdered, and it was established in Pitch Black that things like this make him a little psychotic (like the death of Carolyn.)
- House of Flying Daggers ends with a battle between Jin and Leo. They keep on fighting even after dozens of wounds (the "splashing blood"-kind), only to stop when they both impale each other simultaneously.
- The Jackie Chan movie Wheels On Meals includes this in the climactic fight scene. Widely considered one of the best fight sequences ever recorded.
- Neo and Smith's final confrontation in The Matrix Revolutions goes on for at least 10 minutes with both not really showing that any of the battle is affecting them until the very end.
- The climax of Max Barry's Machine Man. Man in the Machine Dr. Charles Neumann vs. the crazed cyborg Carl the ex-security guard. Both take quite a beating (that does no small amount of property damage) with no sign of who's winning before Neumann blasts Carl to smithereens with his BFG Arm Cannon.
- Generally averted in The Dresden Files for humans. Harry can put out a hell of a lot of damage, but is human underneath it. Played straight with most of the big, supernatural enemies that Harry faces, as well as Cowl, who's currently one of the biggest bads in the series.
- Metalcrafters and the Vord Queen are this in Codex Alera.
- In a more horrific sort of way, so are the Taken and the Kalaran slave legions.
Live Action TV
- Angel vs. Spike in "Destiny", anyone? And for that matter, Buffy vs. Faith in "Graduation Day - Part 1". Despite this both fights end in a climatic way - Spike beats Angel after stabbing him on the shoulder with a stake and Buffy beats Faith after stabbing her in the stomach with a knife.
- Discussed trope after the events of "Destiny". Angel comments that the reason Spike won was resolve: Spike wanted it more.
- Spike in general has a tendency to do this. He starts off being beaten around by virtually everything, then wins the fight in a short space of time. E.G., fighting against that fire-fisted demon to regain his soul, he was being destroyed before suddenly gaining the upper hand and snapping the guy's neck.
- One Night Court episode has a guy get suckered into a fight with Mike Tyson. The episode ends with a voiceover of the announcer: "How much punishment can one face take?"
- Robot Combat League's final is what you get when two Stone Walls crash: By the second round the two were completely trashed, smoking and overheating to the point they couldn't clean the bot's feet because the alcohol caught on fire, and with plenty of lost and reattached limbs as well. They went five rounds, by the way, and the end result was incredibly close.
- This trope was believed to be the downfall of "legit" pro wrestling up until shoot fighting and eventually mixed martial arts became a thing. Matches tended to be over quickly and increasing the amount of time for a pin or adding more falls actually did little to fix that, and on occasions where matches went long they tended to be boring stalemates. The rock bottom of these was believed to be a Collar and Elbow style match between Jacob H Martin and James Hiram McLaughlin that went on for six hours without a decisive winner at Whitney's Opera House in Detroit, Michigan on June 29th 1876. However, it was taken to its logical conclusion on January 26th 1881 in New York City New York when a Collar and Elbow match between Clarence Whistler vs. William Muldoon went for nine hours without a decisive winner! The idea behind working matches was to both have long bouts and keep them interesting.
- The Rock N Roll Express, being the Trope Namers for Ricky Morton, were naturals for this trope. Announcer Bob Caudle more or less asked this during the RNRs-Andersons cage match at NWA Starrcade 86.
- Most hardcore matches tend to go like this, but Mick Foley has made a career out of it. The majority of a Foley match will consist of the opponent hitting him with everything he has (finishers, chairs, tables, ladders, announce tables, thumbtacks, 2x4's, barbed wire, slams through Hell in a Cell cages), after which Foley inexplicably takes control of the match, until his opponent hits something completely off-the-charts (like spears through flaming tables) to get the win.
- New Japan Pro Wrestling, Antonio Inoki defeated Masa Saito in an hour and twenty five minute Island Death Match, that indeed had people asking the question.
- WWF Champion Bruno Sammartino retained his title against Waldo Von Erich in an 81 minute time limit draw...psyche, that wasn't a time limit draw, that was them having to stop the show because of a curfew being put in effect!
- Chris Hero destroyed the notion that the promotion was only for Garbage Wrestlers when he defeated CM Punk for the IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Championship in a two out of three falls bout that went ninety two minutes.
- Ring of Honor decided once decided to put its own time limit to the test. The result? Austin Aries pinned Bryan Danielson after seventy five minutes! Now you know why it cuts off at an hour.
- Lexxus had some doubters when she qualified for a shot at WSU champion Mercedes Martinez in a particularly cowardly way but gained a lot of respect when the two preceded to go seventy three minutes, putting on the longest women's bout on record.
- Taken to new extremes with Shockwave Impact Wrestling in Sidney Ohio USA. If you think having six wrestlers involved cheapens the length of the Ultimate Iron Man Match, then consider American Kickboxer II, Dark Angel(not that one), DJ Tom Sharp, Logan Cross, Sid Fabulous and "Lightning" Tim Lutz went for twelve hours straight.
- SMASH Chris Hero's ALS Challenge saw Hero top himself when he vowed to stay in the ring for thirty minutes for every 500 USD dedicated to charity in what he called "An infinity gauntlet". He ended up wrestling for three hours straight in 16 matches, only losing three, with the last being a "time limit" draw. Chris did end up being pushed beyond his limit though when TARIK, who had lost to Hero three times in the gauntlet, paid another 180 to keep Hero in the ring another ten minutes and then spent it hitting Hero with the Smash title belt(which resulted in a fourth loss by DQ)
- Fudge is one of the few tabletop RPGs that actually weakens people as they get beat up, using a wound track (boxes under wound categories that get filled in), with hurt and very-hurt wound boxes. A hurt is a significant penalty, and it will be obvious; a very-hurt is a huge penalty, and will be just as absurdly obvious.
- Mutants & Masterminds does the same thing in that wounds and bruises affected your ability to take further damage. An optional rule (usually invoked for Iron Age games) stipulates that all rolls suffer a penalty. Taking a significant enough blow can leave you stunned, staggered, unconscious, disabled, or dying (specific states that hamper your actions).
- Champions uses two stats; Body and Stun. An attack that inflicts Body damage has actually injured the character; enough injury results in the character's death. Stun damage can leave the character dazed (lose an action) or result in the character becoming unconscious.
- Shadowrun uses a two stat wound tracking system - lethal and nonlethal damage. Characters accumulate ever greater penalties to all actions as those tracks fill up.
- The old Alternity system had four stats for wound tracking. Damage in some of them came with associated penalties to all actions; damage in others didn't.
- The World of Darkness games track "health levels", with descriptions of what each means (Bruised is the first level of damage, for example). The more damage you take, the greater the penalties to your rolls; once you're down to one level left, you can barely walk.
- Exalted, which uses a similar system, does have this problem with high-powered exalts fighting. Since raising your damage is much easier than raising your resistance to damage, and perfect dodges and parries are cheap and reliable, most fights between non-lunar celestials are utterly bloodless until one runs out of juice and is summarily splattered all over by the opponent's Ultimate Doom-combo. This is even worse since you don't necessarily know how much juice your opponent has left.
- Interestingly, in the PDQ system this is the only way damage is tracked at all - damage is taken directly off of your skills and you lose the fight when you have none left.
- GURPS notes shock penalties for each hit (pain from being struck), crippling damage (broken bones or joints) and has penalties causing by losing too much HP.
- Dungeons & Dragons has a rarely-used optional rule: The Clobbered rule. Taking half your hit points in physical (non-magical) damage, total, in a single round, reduces your ability to act in the next round. However, since no-one uses that rule, most of the time D&D uses the traditional Critical Existence Failure rule.
- The D&D Miniatures game follows the RPG's lead. Most creatures have to make a morale roll after losing half their Hit Points, or run off the battlefield. Otherwise, there's no difference between being at full HP or nearly dead. By contrast, games like Hero Clix or Mage Knight have characters get progressively weaker (and lose special abilities) as they take damage.
- Star Wars: Saga Edition battles can either follow or avert this trope depending on how much damage is being dealt per attack. Lots of weak attacks can bleed off hp without any noticeable effect until you suddenly drop dead from being hit with a toothpick but powerful attacks will move your character down a condition track, making you suffer penalties to everything until you've recovered.
- The almost unknown RPG "Ammo" (only published in Italy) uses 16 different stats for a character. Half of this are used both as normal stats (like Strength for damage, or Agility for dodges) and as life points: damages are randomly distributed amongst stats, reducing them. A very wounded character is highly inefficient, expect for magic users that have little use for physical stats anyway.
- Burning Wheel has a wound meter, but rather than filling up with damage, you just mark each hit under how much incapacitation it inflicts. It's actually very difficult to land a killing blow; most combat ends when one fighter's will breaks and he flees or surrenders, but between strong-willed fighters, they can keep going until one is so penalized by wounds that he can't move.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4, the final fight between Ocelot and Snake is this. Both beat each other down time after time after time and yet both of them keep getting back on their feet.
- This is also sort of a callback to Metal Gear Solid (the first with the word "Solid" in the title), where Liquid Snake, who Liquid Ocelot is a doppelganger of, simply won't die. You actually fight him a total of four times - five if you're counting both halves of the REX battle.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy features leads and antagonists of most of the Final Fantasy series duking it out with Brave attacks (that merely strengthen the attacker's next attack and weaken the opponent's) and HP ones (that actually deal damage), both featuring sharp weaponry and explosive magic. While all of the characters involved are inhumanly tough, strong and agile, there is no in-game explanation why one kind of a seemingly deadly charging slash can wound, while another just discourages the enemy.
- In Digital Devil Saga 2, by the end of the scene with Cielo's death, he's singlehandedly taken out 3 jets and missiles, all while having his limbs torn off and blood pouring out.
- Heavy Rain averts this to the point that quite a few of the injuries the 4 heroes receive last the entire game. It's quite obvious when the player is failing too many QT Es.
- The Mortal Kombat series has been notorious for this, however Mortal Kombat 9 takes it Up to Eleven. Since the character models have been designed with painstaking detail to show the damage inflicted on their bodies, both external and internal, expect to see a lot of fighters look like they've packed up for a trip to the morgue before the end of the first round. Particularly nasty are the characters who break their backs, crack open their skulls or lose an eyelid when busted up. Yes, their eye is just barely hanging there completely exposed.
- From the makers of Mortal Kombat comes Injustice: Gods Among Us. With DC's strongest heroes doing battle this is pretty inevitable, massive cannon's to the face, high voltage shocks, high-speed punches and rockets to the face only slow enemies down.
- In World of Warcraft and other MMORPG's the main tank is often required to be hit by enemies so powerful, a single blow would likely slay almost any other player. The tank is required to endure these colossal hits by the hundred and is only able to do so by being extremely powerful and the subject of his own personal battery of healing spellcasters. The result of this can be that if a healer mistimes a spell or runs out of mana, a tank can be suddenly killed by an attack which previously appeared inconsequential.
- The first two episodes of Death Battle solidly averted this trope as both combatants had a Life Meter, making it not only quite obvious who was winning, but also why, as you could visually compare a fighter's Life Meter before and after his/her opponent's attacks. The third episode onward dropped the life meters and this trope has been played straight ever since. Though there is occasional blood, fighters rarely show any visible damage (this even applies to their clothes), and more often than not take extremely powerful blows throughout the fight yet walk away at the end like nothing ever happened. Some aversions/subversions:
- In Akuma vs. Shang Tsung, though little visible damage is seen on either fighter's body, both fighters come from games where Critical Existence Failure is in full effect; if you look at the winner's Life Meter, he was actually on the brink of death at the end of the fight.
- Boba Fett vs. Samus Aran, being the other match with a Life Meter for each fighter, was in a similar situation as Akuma vs. Shang Tsung, with the Life Meter making it clear the winner was pretty beaten up.
- In Fox McCloud vs. Bucky O'Hare, Fox loses his robotic legs to a bomb.
- Terminator vs. Robocop is perhaps the only death battle to invoke significant amounts of Combat Breakdown. Terminator's human skin is burned off and he later loses his entire lower body, while Robocop has an arm and a leg disabled from plasma rifle shots.
- The spinoff series, One Minute Melee is an arguably worse offender. The series is largely aimed at those who watch Death Battle only for the fights, and thus features NO RESEARCH with the outcomes boiling down to Author Appeal. Because of this, most fights end being an exchange of intense No Holds Barred Beatdowns with both sides exchanging the Advantage Ball until the winner lands the finishing blow at the minute mark.
- Mounty Oum's Haloid had somewhat realistic levels of combat, given that the two combatants were wearing armor that would rival a 50-ton tank. However, his follow up series Dead Fantasy has characters taking insane amounts of damage and just getting up for more. In addition to the random pummeling and slashing, the most notable moments so far were Kasumi taking a bullet to the chest and just getting knocked down for a bit and Tifa taking an axe to her exposed midriff and not even flinching (although she did get knocked back about twenty feet).
- Of course, seeing as it's based off Dragon Ball Z, Super Mario Bros. Z is a big offender. The worst was probably the Team Mario/Axem Rangers X/Koopa Bros. melee. Can anyone truly say that Axem Yellow's hammer attack he performed on Sonic, should have left Sonic with no problem? That still does not stop the fights from being FREAKING AWESOME.
- Then there's Axem Red slashing the shit out of Mario with his axe (doing seemingly little damage, if any at all) while both Green and Black were killed by a single axe swipe later. Not to mention Mecha Sonic being able to soak up a ton of attacks from various sources, yet being knocked out of his Nigh Invulnerable Super Mode by Collision Damage Mario and Sonic sharing Starman.
- Tennyo vs. the Arch-Fiend, in the story Boston Brawl of the Whateley Universe. It just keeps escalating, and they just keep healing up, all the way until a building falls on them. They both get up from it but the Arch-Fiend is out of energy, and Tennyo is just pissed off. In this case it's an intentional God-Mode Sue since the writer is attempting a Deconstruction.
- Averted with Sara, who has similar regeneration abilities. Getting cut in half meant she was pretty much doomed, and needed to eat FAST. Fortunately, some minions are nearby.
- Mike in Half in the Bag criticizes Sucker Punch for using this trope. In the dream world, the protagonists never show signs of being hurt, taking any suspense out of the fight scenes.
- Superman versus Captain Marvel in Justice League Unlimited. Superman eventually won by forcing Captain Marvel to revert to his eight-year-old form.
- Taken to the extreme in the Grand Finale, where the fight between Superman and Darkseid goes on for far too long, and is mostly Darkseid smacking the crap out of Superman, with several blows that look like they should be devastating - one looks like it'd break Superman's back! - but don't noticeably affect his ability to fight in any way. What makes this even crazier is that it seems like Batman - yes, Batman - tries to mix it up with Darkseid, and because of this trope, it seems like his jump-kick is about as effective as Superman. And after enduring this horrific, brutal abuse from a stronger-than-ever Darkseid for the entire episode, Superman gets up, shrugs it off, comes up with the "World of Cardboard" Speech and a Moment of Awesome...but the comeback doesn't even last as long as it took him to get through the speech, when he's interrupted by a device that puts him in as much pain as is physically possible, and that ends the fight.
- On the other hand, decently averted in the episode "Flash Point", in a brawl between Captain Atom and Superman - the two of them (particularly the Captain) visibly take damage and slow down as the fight goes on.
- On a similar note: Superman: Doomsday. The titular characters go at it in Metropolis, relentlessly beating on each other, though Superman seems to get the worst of it until the end.
- How Family Guy's Peter vs. Giant Chicken fights tend to go, although they accumulate at least cosmetic injuries over the course of the fight. It helps that they're all played for laughs and pretty much happening for no reason anyway.
- Transformers often faces this problem and Beast Wars especially: the Predacons (most commonly Waspinator) are frequently blown into pieces, and often survive without even going into the "safety lock" emergency state, yet Dinobot died while largely intact. The shows offers the (surprisingly consistent) justification that it doesn't matter how much they're torn apart, as long as their Spark has energon supplied to it they can be put back together. Thus Dinobot died not from injuries, but because he kept fighting long after his system told him to shut-down, while Waspinator's spark is located within his head, allowing him to survive attacks and mishaps that blow him to pieces. This spark placement is meant to be very unusual.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man's fights, while indeed fitting the "spectacular" label, tend to fall into this - Spidey will get thrashed around for most of the battle, and only finally start to visibly slow down when it's time for the climax.
- During the battle between Twilight and Tirek in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Twilight's Kingdom Part 2, the two are evenly matched.
- Averted in the fight between Xanatos and Oberon in Gargoyles. Oberon begins the battle by growing to enormous size, and every attack that lands on him drains his energy, making him shrink slightly. Meanwhile, Oberon manages to disable one after another of Xanatos' weapons and allies as the fight goes on, making it visibly a battle of attrition.
- Matthew Saad Muhammad, a Hall of Fame boxer, was the walking, breathing example of this trope. Nearly all of his significant fights resulted in him taking massive amounts of punishment while never going down, then proceeding to turn the fight around shortly after and recuperating from the damage to win, usually in the most spectacular fashion possible. His nickname was Miracle Matthew for a reason.
- Another boxing example: Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward beat the everloving bejesus out of each other, both sustaining incredible amounts of punishment. They ended up fighting three times, producing much of the same excitement. (A writer for the Boston Globe described all three fights as "like a Popeye cartoon, only more eventful.")
- According to Wikipedia, the Thrilla In Manila fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier turned into one of these. Frazier's trainer decided to throw in the towel to keep Smokin' Joe from getting hurt even more badly than he already was, while Ali later said that this fight was the closest he'd ever come to dying. In fact, Frazier was ready to go back in completely blind and was not going to quit and got back up every single time. Ali said of him "If God ever called me to a holy war, I would want Joe Frazier by my side".
- MMA fighter Chan-Sung Jung gained the nickname of "The Korean Zombie" due to his ability to take large numbers of heavy blows and still move forward whilst swinging at full strength. He has been knocked out in the past though.
- Another MMA fighter Kazuyuki "Iron Head" Fujita's entire fighting style seemed to revolve around getting kicked in the head until the other fighter was too tired to continue fighting. He infamously won a bout against Ken Shamrock when Shamrock had heart palpitations after dominating the entire fight. To put it another way: he tanked a beating so vicious the man beating him to a pulp had a heart attack!