Video Game Examples
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, both the Nasty Soup and the Purple Chu have random properties, ranging from this trope to an unexpected full health recovery. Very risky indeed.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, angering Magda three times by stepping on her flowers causes her to get so ticked off that she gives Link a massive beating that reduces his health to a single heart.
- Because Mercenaries 2 is ridiculously easy, all exploding vehicles, airstrikes and other 'deadly' things will always jam your HP at 3, and give you about ten seconds of invulnerability. Sometimes the game totally jams at that point, meaning your Magic Regenerative Health doesn't take it back up, and gunshots can't take it back down. Useful, if you don't mind the screen being completely red.
- In Bayonetta Bonus Boss Father Rodin has a move that does this where he charges forth and pulverises you, doubling as a Shout-Out to Akuma's infamous Shun Goku Satsu from the Street Fighter games. Better hope he doesn't pull this one out too early, since you can't heal in this fight.
- Onimusha:Dawn of Dreams has Oni Mode, unlocked by beating game at Hard difficulty, in which all attacks that don't flat out kill you will have this effect, meaning that you die in two hits at most unless you heal yourself in between.
Card Battle Game
- Hearthstone has two such abilities:
- Equality on paladins reduces the hit points of all minions to 1, making enemy minions easier to kill with area-of-effect damage.
- Hunters have Hunters Mark to reduce the hit points of a single minions to 1.
- Warriors can do something vaguely similar with commanding shout, which prevents friendly minions from going below 1 hit point that turn. If attacking a powerful enemy minion, the effect is similar.
- In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, hitting an enemy against the wall does bonus damage via "Wall Rush", but if the damage from the 'bonus' attack would KO the opponent (e.g., opponent has 1236 HP, damage dealt is 930 (actual attack) + 421 (Wall Rush) it brings them down to 1 instead.
- Of all games, Tekken has this move for Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Unknown has this move where she casts a vortex, and if you're caught in that vortex, a large hand rises up and slams you into the vortex, leaving you with 1 HP note and automatically tagging in your partner. If you're really unlucky to be caught in this attack and your partner has low health, good luck trying to survive.
First Person Shooter
- In the Half-Life series, Poison Headcrabs can never kill the player, but only reduce their HP to 1 (which slowly regenerates to a few below the initial value). Because they tend to be located in chaotic scenes with lots of enemies that can kill the player, people would drop everything else and unload entire clips of ammo just to kill the tiny, scuttling, black thing somewhere in the room. Even the sound effect by itself, outside of the game setting, can make most former players jump a mile.
- In City of Heroes:
- falling cannot kill you. No matter from what height you fall, you will always have at least one hit point left. That said: you will survive the impact itself, but depending on your hit points left whatever is around you can and will off you pretty quick.
- This used to be used as a offensive PVP and PVE trick by Blasters who used to have an effect that their damage went up the less HP they had. They'd drop onto a team of Villians and pop off their strongest Area attack, often one-shotting a whole villain team. Defiance no longer works this way.
- Then there's The Magistrium trial, where the Big Bad hits your raid league with a nuke, bringing everyone's HP to 1. This is his opening attack, he only uses it once, and it's funny because most of his attacks can one-hit-kill most characters anyway. So in essence, a point-blank hit by a nuclear bomb is the least lethal thing that you have to worry about at this point. Yikes! (For clarification, by this point your character is an "Incarnate" who's half-way up the power ladder. You're fighting someone who's made it to the top of said ladder already)
- Several examples in Final Fantasy XI:
- The game has special event enemies that can bring down the players' HP to 1. It's not as horrible as you'd think, considering everyone gets capped to level one for the event.
- Tonberries have an attack called "Throat Stab" that brings you down to 5% HP. Luckily, it has a very short range, so you can avoid it by walking away when he tries to use it. And if you do get hit with it, it resets your accumulated enmity, so unless you're alone the tonberry will attack someone else (most likely the mages healing you to full).
- Certain Diremites also have Tarsal Slam, which is HP to 1, but like Throat Stab also comes with a hate reset.
- Lineage 2 had a downplayed version of this called Seal of Limit, an area-of-effect spell that hard caps affected target's HP at 30%. It is ridiculously spammable and being a hard counter to Balance Life, the single best healing spell in the game.
- In Mabinogi Fantasy Life, the Poison and Mirage Missile effects reduce HP to one, then do only enough damage to counteract Healing Factors. Mirage Missile is very useful if you can follow up with an Area of Effect attack, since with its infectious nature it can turn a whole roomful of monsters into One Hitpoint Wonders. Attacks that do more than a player's whole health bar sends them automatically into Deadly mode, one hit away from getting killed.
- MapleStory has Zakum, the original Big Bad of the game (who devolved into the-boss-everyone-wants-to-fight-because-of-the-Infinity-Plus-One-Hat-you-get-from-him thanks to further additions adding even bigger bads, the most notable and recent example being Pink Bean/Pink Been/Pink Being in Time Temple) — who, in his final form (he looks more battle-damaged with each form, the last one being terribly close to rubble) regularly ABUSES an attack that drops both HP and SP to 1.
- In Runescape, Nomad from the quest Nomad's Requiem gets a unique version of this attack. The attack always hits your maximum Life Points minus 10. In a subversion, however, the attack hits this amount regardless of your current HP - so unless your health is at (or above, through the use of potions) max, it will kill you. Some shields and armor can reduce the damage of the attack, but at the time of release this equipment was prohibitively expensive.
- Eblis, a boss in The Secret World, has an attack like this, targeting a random player and stunning them for a few seconds.
- World of Warcraft:
- Raid Boss Prince Malchezaar has Enfeeble that works this way, but it's only temporary damage. The trick is to avoid any further damage until the effect wears off. Of course, he casts an area-effect spell soon after, so the targets need to run away from him (and avoid the Infernals area damage). The effect also prevents any form of healing, so there is no easy way out. Mercifully, he won't use it on whoever is on top of his threat list. This would keep it from being a completely Luck-Based Mission, but the above-mentioned infernals do a fine job of making it one on their own.
- Baron Ashbury in the revamped Shadowfang Keep has an ability called Asphyxiate, which stuns all players and reduces their HP to 1. Immediately after casting Asphyxiate he will cast Stay of Execution, an interruptable ability that heals both the players and himself for 10% of their maximum life every time second it ticks. Defeating him without letting him heal at all awards the Pardon Denied achievement.
- Chimaeron in Blackwing Descent has an interesting take on this. There's a friendly NPC that prevents any hit from killing anyone if their health is above 10,000, instead causing them to live with 1 health. This means that healers just have to keep everyone above 10,000 health for most of the fight, but this effect gets disabled periodically, and so massive healing is required to keep everyone alive through his caustic slimes.
- Some of the pets in the pet-battle minigame have an attack that explicitly has a version of this effect (that is, the attack does normal damage, but it will not reduce the opponent below one hit point). This has its uses, since you capture pets by reducing them to low health without killing them (then following up with a "cage" attack). If your pet has the HP to one attack, you can use him even if he's much higher level than the opponent, and not worry about an ill-timed critical hit killing the other guy.
- Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars has Venomancer's Poison Nova, which deals an absurd amount of damage over time but can't drop an enemy's health below 1. Unfortunately for them, the rest of his kit deals damage over time which can kill the victim.
- Heroes of the Storm: Alarak can do with to himself with a level 20 talent. More specifically, the talent lets him teleport a sizable distance and clear any status effects, but automatically sets him to 1 HP. He can use it to escape from basically any situation, but smart opponents can figure out where he might have blinked to and instantly pop him.
- Banjo-Tooie has the Stomponadon and the crushers in Grunty Industries; being crushed twice in a row results in death. Banjo's Snooze Pack move allows him to recover health in between repeatedly getting flattened to one honeycomb. One of Weldar's attacks, the ground pound, has the same effect as well; and like all bosses it must be fought with Banjo and Kazooie together, so the recovery move cannot be done during battle.
- The final boss of Metroid Fusion does this the first time she hits you.
- The titular Metroid in Super Metroid reduces Samus' energy to exactly 1 point, regardless of any health tanks she has. This is more of a plot point than any serious danger; while there's nothing you can do to stop the energy drain, the Critical Annoyance alarm suddenly reminds the metroid that Samus tried to save it from Ridley, and it lets her go. Luckily, there's no other enemies between Samus and an energy-restoring station.
- Also in Super Metroid, the final boss (Mother Brain) resorts to the Laser Brain Attack when dealt enough damage, draining three Energy Tanks (or six, if the player is not wearing the Varia Suit), about sixty-five Missiles, and Samus's entire supply of Super Missiles and Power Bombs. What qualifies it for this trope (given that the player can have up to nineteen Energy Tanks' worth of health by the end of the game) is that not only can it not be dodged, but she'll keep doing it until the player's health becomes low enough that one more Laser Brain Attack would be lethal; furthermore, if the player has more than one Energy Tank remaining, she'll rub in her imminent victory by launching weaker attacks at Samus (who at this point is too exhausted to move) until this is no longer the case. Finally, she'll attempt to finish Samus off with one final Laser Brain Attack - at which point the infant "Super Metroid" will rush in and save Samus's life. If Samus can't survive the first of the Laser Brain attacks, however, she will die.
Real Time Strategy
- The Mad Dok's Fightin' Juice in Dawn of War makes the orks under its effect immune to death for a while - so they're basically running around at 1 HP each. However, it doesn't prevent knockback, so the affected squad isn't literally unstoppable.
- The Space Marine Librarian's Word of the Emperor ability has the same effect, with two exceptions. First, it affects all nearby infantry instead of being targeted at a specific squad. Second, the Librarian himself is not affected and killing him stops the effect immediately.
- In Starcraft, the Defiler's Plague attack is an example of this: it is a powerful area attack but will never kill an enemy, only reduce their hit points to a minimum of 1. Subverted if you use it on Terran buildings, however, as if these are damaged into the red they automatically continue to deteriorate and eventually explode even if no further attack is made on them.
- Warcraft III: some damage-over-time effects like Disease Cloud and Envenomed Weapons never kill the target, keeping them at one or two HP as long as the effect lasts.
Role Playing Game
- In Bloodborne, Moon Presence, the Eldritch Abomination behind Hunter's Dream has a gaze attack which can deplete the Hunter's health to 1, the range is cone shaped instead of being traditional self-centered Area of Effect, it can however result in one hit kill instead if the Hunter's has less than 30% of the total health while being co-operater.
- The Disembowel skill from Breath of Fire 3 and 4. The enemies that use it tend to follow up with Target, an attack skill that never misses. Naturally, it's a Useless Useful Spell once you acquire it yourself (doubly so when you notice it's also Cast from Hit Points and reduces your max HP temporarily when used).
- Queen Zeal's Life Shaver and Hallation attacks in Chrono Trigger.
- Great time for Dino Tail and Frog Squash!
- Which can also be used by various mooks, such as Gargoyles on the Mountain of Woe.
- The Nus in Enhasa either do nothing, reduce you to 1, or reduce you by 1. They are nice enough to attack in turn, hitting (at worst) all three characters to reduce them to one, giving you time to heal, and then hitting you with the 1 HP damage.
- Krawlie, a boss that appears in the Abandoned Sewers in 2300 AD, may reduce a single character's HP to 1 with his Mash attack.
- In Darkest Dungeon, heart attacks, which happens when the character's stress bar gets doubly full, drop the character to Death's Door. If he or she is already in Death's Door before that, it just kills them outright (like it used to do in pre-release builds).
- A Sequential Boss from Digimon World 3 goes into his second form just to use an attack like this, then immediately turns into his third form. In the original game, attacks outside of battle can't get a Digimon's HP below 1.
- Dragon Quest Monsters had the spell Kamikaze, which cut the user's and target's HP to 1 if successful.
- In the Endless Frontier spinoff, Mercy is instead turned into a negative status effect that can only be gotten via one of the two Spirit commands that cast a random SC on either themselves or a random party member: the reason it's a negative status effect despite doing the exact same thing is because the whole point of the game is overkilling every enemy in overly elaborate ways and the only HP you ever need to worry about hitting 0 is your own.
- The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money, when played on hardcore mode, features an outdoor area with toxic gas that constantly drains your health down to 1HP. Given a dearth of healing items, this basically turns you into a One HP Wonder for the entire first half of the add-on.
- The Final Fantasy series loves this trope.
- Beatrix has this as her Finishing Move in Final Fantasy IX. When she executes it, the battle is over; from a story standpoint, the party is defeated as if it's a KO. She considers this her ultimate move and taunts/threatens the party with death after she uses it, which is very strange considering you can regen out of the critical status while the game fades to black, reducing the "impact" of the scene.
- The final boss, Necron, boasts his "Blue Shockwave" attack, which cuts the victim down to 1 HP.
- The final monster Zidane has to fight during the "You're Not Alone!" sequence has an attack that does this, which trigger's Garnet/Dagger's entrance by casting Curaga on you (even if they haven't learnt it yet).
- The Blue magic Death Claw allows Blue Mages to reduce monsters (and a few midbosses!) to single-digit hp with a successful casting. It stuns them too, leaving them unable to heal in preparation for the follow up.
- Final Fantasy IV's "Tornado" spell (and its upgraded counterpart, "Maelstrom", usable only by certain enemies) reduces its target(s)' HP to single digits, providing a much the same effect.
- Final Fantasy IV: The After Years loves to do this during boss fights. Adamantoise in Yang's Story is one. It also happens at the end of The Lunarian's Story too, after the fight between Golbez/Fusoya and Zeromus's Malice.
- Final Fantasy VI: The spell "Fallen One" ("Heartless Angel" in the GBA translation) makes all of your warriors' HP fall to 1. When you meet Kefka at the very end of the game, this is his opening move. Other enemies besides Kefka can use it, but it usually involves using Relm's "Sketch"/"Control" command or one of Gau's rages.
- Holy Dragon 2 in the GBA edition of Final Fantasy VI can randomly Counter Attack with Heartless Angel, so if your timing is off, he could counter with it and immediately follow up with his normal turn consisting of a spell that hits the entire field.
- Final Fantasy VII: Sephiroth can use "Heartless Angel" in his One-Winged Angel form at the end of the game. He even kept it for his Bonus Boss fights in Kingdom Hearts (it actually reduced your HP/MP to ZERO if you didn't interrupt it. Fortunately you have Second Chance by then) and his playable appearance in Dissidia: Final Fantasy (which mercifully only takes your Brave Points down to 1), so in a way, it's almost become his trademark attack. It's also used by him in Crisis Core during the Nibelheim event.
- Final Fantasy VIII:
- Ultimecia's penultimate "Hell's Judgement" attack causes the entire party's health to drop to one.
- During the second Laguna dream sequence, the last Esthar Soldier (Terminator) has a final attack called "Soul Crush" that will put Kiros and Ward down to 1 HP. Kiros and Ward are severely wounded in the following cutscene after the battle
- Subverted by Bonus Boss Ultima Weapon (and its even more powerful palette swap Omega), which uses an attack that inflicts exactly 9998 points of damage, meaning that it will only reduce your HP to 1 as long as it's maxed out. Otherwise it's instant death.
- Inverted in Final Fantasy X with the giant bird monsters, who are always reduced to at least 1 HP before being killable (they start off in the air, then land once sufficiently damaged, but even a 99999 hit won't outright kill them from the start).
- Final Fantasy X-2 has Yojimbo and the Magus Sisters, the former being much more annoying as it also knocks the party's MP to one; you're screwed without an Alchemist
- Final Fantasy XII has Sight Unseeing, which reduces the target's HP to single digits with a chance of said digit being 0 and causing a One-Hit Kill. It only works if the caster is afflicted with the Blind status, though.
- Final Fantasy XIII has Orphan who uses an attack called Merciless Judgement to bring your party's HP to 100 (relatively speaking, a critical amount). Easily fixed by using a paradigm with healers, but an instant kill if anyone is poisoned when he uses it.
- The final boss of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII also uses the the Heartless Angel, but it's made much more manageable by the fact that you can see it coming in advance and guard it to prevent it from working.
- Final Fantasy XIV:
- The first boss of Sastasha (Hard) will target a random player with Tail Screw, which will reduce their HP to 1. Normally, the healer can easily fix this, but the boss will also use a poison based debuff before using Tail Screw. If the healer didn't cure the debuff beforehand, then the chip damage will kill the player after the Tail Screw attack.
- Forgall, the second boss of The Weeping City of Mhach, would use an attack called Hell Wind which would have this effect then immediately follow it up with Punishing Ray, an attack which players must stand in marked areas to weaken the main blast. Said areas cause an unremovable bleeding debuff as long as the players stand in them forcing the healers to undo the damage of Hell Wind as quickly as possible.
- Ark/Cloud Chaser from Alexander's core reduces the party's HP to 1% of their total health when using Photon.
- Several Final Fantasy games had Cactuars with two attacks: One would do 1 HP of damage, the other would do <Player's current HP - 1> damage.
- Some monsters (and bosses) have this as an attack in Golden Sun. Notably, all of the Golem-type enemies have a chance of this effect occurring from "Truncheon Fist". It's still pretty nasty otherwise.
- Kingdom Hearts has a few in addition to Sephiroth mentioned above.
- Birth By Sleep Final Mix has Bonus Boss No Heart, who has an attack that is basically DHA turned Up to Eleven. It doesn't just drain your HP to one, it completely drains your focus gauge and even your command board. Thankfully, he doesn't use it often, and the attack itself is much easier to dodge than Sephiroth's.
- Kingdom Hearts 3D does it again with the (this time required) boss Anti Black Coat Nightmare. He extends a line of darkness towards you, and if it catches you, it drains your HP to one. Luckily, it's easy to dodge and if you do get caught, the health it drains from you is converted into HP orbs which are scattered all over the arena. You also have plenty of time to select a cure command while you're draining (though sometimes he just waits below you and finishes you off before you can use it...). However, the boss can also pick up the HP orbs, which restore a lot of his HP.
- Last Scenario has several bosses who can do this: Thanatos, who does this to the entire party unless you have damage-reducing Status Buffs active, Durile, who targets a single character, and the Black King, whose attack hits the entire party, too.
- The final boss of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, Loa Luciferia, has a move that can do this to everyone in the active battle party.
- Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga does this with the Final Boss. Both characters are reduced to 1 HP in an unavoidable attack, just in time for the boss to attack once with each of her body parts (with new attacks you haven't seen before unless you've already died here). This will happen before you even get a chance to heal unless you have done enough Level Grinding to get at least one Bro's Speed to be greater than hers or you use equipment with the First Strike effect. You can also survive by correctly timing Action Commands to dodge the attacks.
- In Mega Man Battle Network 3:
- When you first fight Bass, his aura is impenetrable, and his attacks are impossible to avoid fully. He 'deletes' you, but you go back the out-of-battle screen unconscious and with 1 HP.
- Invoked with the Undershirt chip and program (or wave ability in Mega Man Star Force), which lets you retain 1 HP on an otherwise fatal hit.
- Epsilon in Mega Man X: Command Mission gains the ability to knock one of your characters down to one hit point after he powers up mid-fight. He also uses this ability to open the fight.
- Mother: PK Freeze alpha and beta do increasing quantities of damage, but Freeze gamma is apparently so strong that it always drops the enemy's HP to a "critical status". If the beast isn't immune to that spell.
- In My World, My Way, the "Weaken" spell does this, though you can't use the spell against bosses.
- Neverwinter Nights used the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons version of Harm. As a cleric spell it wasn't resisted by the high spell resistance that most powerful enemies had, making it one of the most useful spells in the game.
- Paper Mario:
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door the Item Trial Stew puts you down to only one heart point and zero flower points, but recovers all star power. Trial Stew also appears in Super Paper Mario, but it has no benefits this time.
- Paper Mario: Color Splash has an attack that does this to its user, but adds insane damage and life drain to compensate for the price. You better hope Huey has enough strength to block this one...
- In Parasite Eve these attacks: the crab's attack that involves grabbing and pinching you, Eve's red tentacle in Day 5, Ultimate Being's yellow shockwave, and Maya's Energy Shot, all put you down to 1 HP.
- The Generation 2 move "False Swipe" is an ordinary attack (similar to "Scratch"), but features the added effect that it will never reduce the opponent to zero HP. It is useful primarily for weakening wild Pokémon so they can be more easily caught, but can't save them from themselves (self-damaging moves), which is why you should always have status effect moves in case the mon does have self-damaging moves.
- Generation 6 introduced "Hold Back" which is identical to "False Swipe", but is rarer to obtain as it is given to certain event Pokémon.
- On the other side, various moves, items etc. provide a Last Chance Hit Point, detailed on that page.
- Prior to Generation V, poisoned Pokémon in the player's party would lose health for every few steps taken outside of battle. In Generation IV, a Pokémon brought down to 1 HP by poison outside of battle would be cured of poison; previous generations had the Pokémon faint instead.
- In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, some moves that would normally cause the user to faint in the main games like Healing Wish and Memento instead lower the user's HP to 1.
- In Secret of Mana, some chests would contain a "Death Trap". If you had full health, it would reduce your HP to one. If you didn't, instant death ensued. You very quickly learned to heal up before opening chests.
- Fox Face from Shadow Hearts has his "!!!" attack. He's got another one that reduces you to one Sanity point. There is also the ability "Nightmare", which summons thousands of cockroaches (which crawl all over the screen, too).
- Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne has a version of this fitting with the spirit of the game: Aciel will do this to your entire party, then immediately follow it up with a regular attack before you get a turn. Hope he doesn't target the main character.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV has an attack called Death's Door, which causes the opponent's HP to go to one if they have the Sick status effect. Also in the boss fight against the White masquerading as Issachar, he will give you multiple Breaking Speeches throughout the fight and one of the consequences of falling into one of them is that Flynn's HP goes down to one and his SP to zero.
- Persona 4 has Galgalim Eyes, which reduce the victim's HP to 1 and inflict them with the Enervation status. The Final Boss often follows up on this with Summons To Yomi, which kills anyone with a status ailment.
- The Long-Dead King from RPG Maker game Standstill Girl has a skill that does this. However, strangely enough, you can guard against it, halving the damage you take.
- Super Mario RPG has some enemy attacks that are One Hit Kills. However, if you defend against these attacks with the Action Command, they become this trope.
- Tales Series:
- The final boss of Tales of Vesperia, Duke, has a Mystic Arte called Big Bang that deals an absurd amount of damage to your entire party but can never reduce your HP below 1. It's not technically a HP to one effect but at higher difficulty levels (and especially against his True Final Boss form) it might as well be. (Unless, you happen to be playing the PS3 Updated Re-release on Hard or Unknown mode, in which case the "Last Chance Hit Point" condition is thrown out of the window and you can really start worrying).
- Any boss with a Mystic Arte in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. How early in the battle you see a Mystic Arte is usually a good indicator of whether or not it's a fight you're supposed to win.
- Tales of Eternia has the Big Bad Shizel play the trope straight with Eternal Finality.
- All enemy Mystic Artes in Tales of the Abyss reduce HP to one if they would otherwise kill the target. This explains how a certain character was able to survive a direct attack with the Bonus Boss's ultimate Mystic Arte.
- In Undertale:
- The very first attack in the game is one of these. A highly similar attack is used on you just before the final battle of the Pacifist route.
- The boss of Snowdin will never hit you with a fatal attack. If the attack would normally be fatal, it instead reduces your health to 1 HP and ends the battle.
- The True Final Boss' last attack will be a point-blank, unavoidable beam that reduces your HP to a very small fraction of a percent.
- The Final Boss of the Kill 'em All ending has a Gravity Screw attack. At one point in the fight he uses it with such force that it will cause Falling Damage, though the Falling Damage in and of itself can't kill you.
- The Greater Demon's Death Wish attack in Valkyrie Profile.
- Mabadi, a level 6 Priest Spell in Wizardry: Proving Grounds of The Mad Overlord. The spell was very nice in helping kill those Murphy's Ghosts.
- Minecraft: Poison will cease damaging you at 1/2 heart of health. If the difficulty is on Normal, so will starvation.note However, other tick-down effects, like wither or fire, will kill you.
Turn Based Strategy
- A variation is used in Advance Wars: CO Powers and missiles reduce units by a set amount, but won't inflict the killing blow.
- In later Disgaea games, Adell can gain an Evility that makes all his attacks leave one hit point. Useful because the character who deals the killing blow gets all the XP, so you can use Adell to weaken enemies, have a weaker character finish them off, and make Level Grinding quick and easy.
- Fire Emblem:
- The Hel dark magic from the fourth and fifth game along with Eclipse in the sixth reduce the target's HP to one, or kills if the target is already at one HP, but to prevent them from being total Game Breakers they all had very low accuracy and high weight which would slow the user down, and Eclipse in Blazing Sword was nerfed to only halve the target's HP, but got an accuracy boost to compensate. But in a touch of Artificial Brilliance in Thracia 776, enemy dark mages often couple with another dark magic Yotsmungand that poisons if it hits, if a poisoned target is hit with Hel, it becomes One-Hit Kill instead.
- In the tenth game:
- Whispers gain the mastery skill Bane, which instantly reduces enemy HP to one. Of course, considering that the chances of you getting any Whispers other than Sothe, combined with the chances of Sothe turning out to be any good, this is rather worthless.
- Also your other characters will often have a mastery skill that is basically "ton of damage. If he manages to survive somehow, halve his speed for 5 turns." In fact, this is the case with most mastery skills. Most of these added effects tend to be completely irrelevant since most of the skills are overpowered and will seldom not kill everything. Of course, no generic enemies nor non-plot relevant bosses will ever have these skills (or any non-mastery skills, unless they're bosses) because they never make it to the third tier, for obvious reasons.
- Bane is just Lethality and Mercy in one skill. The former (only belonging to Volke) kills things instantly (unless they're counted as a boss character) and the latter (belonging to Elincia) makes it so that it's impossible to kill anyone since your character will stop doing damage after an enemy's hit one HP. Mercy has its uses, but the game puts it on Elincia after a certain point in the game, but doesn't tell you, which can cause players to accidentally head out into battle with her being unable to kill things.
- Actually subverted in Awakening: On the final mission, during the opening cutscene, Grima uses his power to weaken everyone in your army and it displays their health bars being reduced to a tiny sliver. However, Naga, who has taken up residence in Chrom's sword, shortly afterward uses her own powers to heal everyone back up to full health before the battle actually starts, and they begin the mission with full health as usual.
- Grima pulls the same trick in the Future Past 3 DLC mission, only this time it's not aimed at your party, but rather the Alternate Universe versions of Lucina, Severa, Laurent, and Gerome, making an already-precarious Escort Mission even more desperate, since all four need to survive to get the Golden Ending.
- In Gothic, NPCs who are not inherently hostile but whom you've managed to annoy will generally knock you out instead of killing you. This reduces you to one hit point.
- Cutscene attacks in Super Robot Wars do either 150%, 110%, 95%, 90%, 50% or (in one event in Alpha 3) 500% of the target's maximum HP. When it's the second or third on an enemy, it generally means that the boss is either going to make a dying speech or Motive Rant before blowing up anyway, or it's going to regenerate all its health so you can fight it for real. That one time where it was 500%? It involved a Goldion Crusher on Palparepa.
- And then there's the "Mercy" spirit command, which, if it works, makes any attack deal just enough damage to reduce the target's HP to 10 without killing them. It's useful for keeping high-level enemies alive so weaker characters can kill them for experience. It's also used as a minor plot point in Super Robot Wars Z, where Kira Yamato in his Thou Shalt Not Kill phase always has the Mercy effect.
- Heero Yuy's "I'll Kill You" command in the SD G Generation games for the Nintendo DS increases his attack power at the cost of, ironically, not being able to kill.
- Discworld MUD: Happens to any PC who decides to try stealing without a license in Ankh-Morpork, regardless whether or not the offender actually is a thief.
- In Rockman 4 Minus Infinity Mega Man can get a Shock Guard upgrade which turns the series' trademark Spikes of Doom into these if he has more than 1 HP.
Non Video Game Examples:
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, this is literally the effect of Earthbound Immortal Wiraqocha Rasca; by skipping the battle phase, your opponent's Life Points become 1. This effect was removed from the real card, because an effect like that would be ridiculously broken in the real card game. A Later card, Chaos Number 6: Chaos Atlandis, also has this effect. Unlike Wiraqocha Rasca however, it was NOT removed from its real life version, balanced by a few activation and summoning conditions
- Magic: The Gathering has several examples;
- Ali from Cairo, which turns an otherwise-fatal attack into this.
- Worship, which (while it fits with the right color) grants every creature this ability.
- Near-Death Experience has meant that if you are at one life during your upkeep, you win!
- If you want to inflict this on all players, the card Worldfire reduces all players to one life. (In addition to exiling their hand, graveyard and everything they have in play).
- The card Master of Cruelties is a straight example of this: If it attacks and the opponent doesn't (Or can't) block, they will immediately be reduced to 1 life.
- Super Munchkin has the Plot Device card. It sets the effective level of the munchkin currently in combat exactly 1 above or below that of the monster (depending on who uses it).
- In the Pokémon Trading Card Game, Raticate's Super Fang has this property. The move is Energy-intensive, however, and Raticate has very low HP (even compared to before any Sequel Escalation happened).
Tabletop RP Gs
- Dungeons & Dragons.
- Older editions of (Advanced) Dungeons & Dragons had the Harm spell (reverse of Heal), which would strip the victim of all but 1d4 or so hit points, no save. It did the same thing in 3rd edition where, due to the revised casting, melee attack and HP system between 2nd and 3rd edition, it turned into a massive Game-Breaker. The version in 3.5 inflicts damage based on caster level, but it still cannot reduce the victim's hp below 1.
- An article in Dragon magazine #36 gave AD&D stats for Conan. He could not be killed by poison: instead, he would be reduced to one Hit Point and fall unconscious.
- In 3.5 edition drowning set your health to zero (not "down to" zero; if your health was below zero at the time, it would actually go up to zero). This was the basis for one of the most broken characters of all time which used this, an infinite damage loop, a spell that prevented death (at least from hit point damage) for a specific period of time, combined with a whole host of spells that added benefits per x amount of damage you took. It was named the Omniscificer. What this ignored was that by the same technicality, getting out of the water doesn't stop you from drowning.
- Lampshaded (like everything else) in Adventurers! as one of Boss Khrima's attacks.
- The Eater of Dreams in Captain SNES: The Game Masta has the Living Nightmare attack, which reduces everyone's HP to one and heals himself for the damage dealt. He cruelly uses it to foist a no-win situation on Lucca.
- Malack from The Order of the Stick has Harm, and it works just like it does in the source material. He uses it on Nale at one point and very nearly does the classic "kill with Scratch Damage" follow-up with a quickened attack, with Nale only surviving because the latter dodged the second attack and used his next turn to beat a hasty retreat.