->'''EMT:''' Hey Peter, good job saving that girl today.\\
'''Peter:''' Her mother died. I should have gotten there sooner.\\
'''EMT:''' Should have...? Peter, you got there faster than is ''humanly possible''.\\
'''Peter:''' I should have been faster.
-->-- ''Series/{{Heroes}}''

It's an old standby: The hero has done his absolute best, saved everyone he possibly could...but not everyone. Someone died, nearly always in a way completely outside the hero's control. He went above and beyond the call of duty, but it wasn't enough.

Can lead to TrainingFromHell, HeroicBSOD and, in rare cases, JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope. See also ChronicHeroSyndrome. Friends will often respond with, "YouDidEverythingYouCould."

Related to GuiltComplex or MyGreatestFailure.


[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Negi Springfield of ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'' gets like this should one of his students suffer so much as a ''scratch''. His response is TrainingFromHell. Of course, his response to ''everything'' is TrainingFromHell (or kissing).
* [[HurtingHero Edward Elric]] from ''Manga/FullMetalAlchemist'' invokes this trope at the end of the series. After looking back on everything, it is revealed that he still feels guilt about [[spoiler:Nina's and Hughes's]] deaths.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In Creator/MarvelComics, this is the cause of ComicBook/TheSentry's mental problems. He has the power of a million exploding suns, but whom does he choose to save and whom to let die?
** In fact, the same could be said for The Sentry's inspiration, Franchise/{{Superman}} himself. Despite his vast powers, he is not a god. He is still someone with his own life yet is burdened by the fact that he cannot always be there for people that need him and having his supersenses means he knows when so many people are in trouble.
*** As listed in film, a very poignant and Tearjerking example was the inability to save Pa Kent.
* This is one of the key elements of Franchise/SpiderMan. Our friendly neighborhood superhero never congratulates himself on the fact that he saves 99% of the people who fall into danger, but he always blames himself for that 1% he ''couldn't'' save.
* Franchise/{{Batman}}. It's his shtick; he wasn't able to save his family as a child, leading him to become the criminal-pulping badass he is today. All in the name of trying to make sure no eight-year-old boy ever has his parents taken away by a punk with a gun, ever again. This is a highly unlikely event that he'll succeed, but we still love the journey.
* In one short series of ''ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}'' strips, Snoopy attempts to write a book which he titles, ''[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Things I've Learned After it Was Too Late]]''.

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* ''FanFic/RainbowDoubleDashsLunaverse'': Princess Luna starts off the Grand Galloping Gala with one of these, delivered to the town of Ponyville, for letting her Night Court get out of control.
* ''FanFic/KyoshiRising'': the title character constantly beats herself up over failing to defend her home from bandits, and like the Batman example above she sets out to make sure that no one else has to go through the same experience.
* In ''FanFic/{{Fractured}}'', a ''MassEffect''[=/=]''StarWars''[[spoiler:[=/=]''[=Borderlands=]'']] [[MassiveMultiplayerCrossover crossover]] and its [[FanFic/SovereignGFCOrigins sequel]], Samantha Shepard experiences this trope full-force. She blames herself for her own HeroicBSOD in ''Fractured'', and then insists ([[InsaneTrollLogic against all reason]]) that she is also somehow responsible for the [[spoiler:Flood's]] taking over the galaxy.


[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Mr. Incredible feels like this near the end of ''WesternAnimation/TheIncredibles'' for an atypical reason - he says that he's "not strong enough", which Helen assumes to mean this. [[spoiler: Bob was referring to having watched their plane get shot down and fearing the worst just hours before]].
-->'''Bob''': [[spoiler:''[[ForcedToWatch I can't lose you again]]''! ...I can't. Not again. I'm not... strong enough.]]
-->'''Helen''': [[spoiler:If we work together, you won't have to be.]]

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* The famous scene at the end of ''Film/SchindlersList'' in which Oskar Schindler laments that he could have saved more than he did if he'd thought to sell more of his possessions, in particular his Nazi party lapel pin (which is gold):
-->'''Oskar Schindler:''' I could have gotten one more person... and I didn't! And I... I didn't!
* ''Franchise/StarWars'': Anakin Skywalker feels this way in ''Film/AttackOfTheClones'' after failing to save his mother in time.
* Rather poignantly stated in the first ''Film/{{Superman}}'' film, about Clark's father, Jonathan Kent: "All these powers, and I couldn't even save him."
* In ''Film/SpiderMan2'', Peter Parker loses his powers for whatever reason, but then decides to run into a burning building anyway to rescue a little girl. After fighting his way through the blaze and saving the girl, the firefighters praise Peter's heroics, then talk amongst themselves about someone else on one of the upper levels who wasn't so lucky. By the look on his face, it's clear that Peter doesn't feel very heroic about that. It's less of a "I should have saved him too as a de-powered normal person" and more a case of "I could have saved him if I still had spider powers"
* Happens to Indiana Jones at the end of ''Film/IndianaJonesAndTheLastCrusade''. Elsa Schneider sets off an earthquake by taking the holy grail past the temple’s seal. Indiana manages to grab her just before she falls in a crevasse and is about to pull her up to safety. But Elsa, consumed by greed, uses her free hand to reach for the grail below her. Indiana struggles to hold her because the leather glove on her hand is too slippery. He desperately tries to get through to her, but she’s too obsessed with the grail. The glove finally slips off and she falls to her death. Afterwards, he looks back at the collapsed temple with regret that he couldn’t save her.
* Played for laughs in ''[[Film/AceVentura Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls]]''. During a spoof of ''Film/{{Cliffhanger}}'' to open the film, Ace is attempting to rescue a raccoon trapped on a mountainside, but loses his grip and the animal falls to its death. Cue TimeSkip, and Ace is holed up in a monastery attempting to find inner peace over the failure.

* In ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'', Harry goes through this from time to time, especially as it relates to Susan getting put on the road to vampirism by the Red Court, courtesy of Harry's dose of ChronicHeroSyndrome. The fact that he was usually lucky to have survived himself does little to help him cope.
* Kaladin from ''Literature/TheStormlightArchive'' does this ''a lot''. He starts off as a surgeon's apprentice who gets depressed everytime a patient dies, then he becomes a soldier and gets depressed and puts himself through TrainingFromHell after his brother is killed in battle, then he ends up a slave stuck in a causality heavy job and tries to save the members of his crew and gets depressed when a number of them end up dead.
* The hero of the ''Cybernarc'' novels goes through this twice in the first book, once when his squad is ambushed by drug smugglers and again when the same smugglers attack his family. Both times he does everything he could have done, but still feels guilty that he didn't save everybody.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Peter Petrelli of ''Series/{{Heroes}}'', as the page quote indicates, falls into this a lot.
* ''Series/TheXFiles'': Fox Mulder expresses this sentiment in the first-season episode "Young at Heart": on his first field assignment for the FBI, he hesitated to shoot a criminal, who killed the hostage and an FBI agent. Although subsequent investigation proved that he did everything right, he could never forgive himself.
* A ''sort of'' example that does involve wanting to be better, but not for heroic reasons: Series/{{Angel}} and [[Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer Spike]], being the only two vampires with souls, have a deep rivalry when Spike makes the switch from the show ''Buffy'' to ''Angel'' in the fifth season. At one point, they fight over what they believe to be a cup of extreme suffering, destined to be drunk only by the true champion of the world. It turns out to just be a fake chalice filled with Mountain Dew. After Spike beats Angel, even after the drink is revealed to be a fake, Angel expresses this, feeling he should have wanted it enough to beat Spike.
** In Buffy's "After Life," we learn that Spike has been feeling this way about Buffy's death and has some serious guilt over it.
-->'''Spike:''' Uh, I do remember what I said. The promise... to protect her. If I'da done that... even if I didn't make it... you wouldn't have had to jump. But I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course, but, after that. Every night after that. I'd see it all again... I do something different. Faster or more clever, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways... Every night I save you.
* One episode of ''Series/SevenDays'' involves Frank on a time-critical mission to save his boss from capture (and from taking a SuicidePill to avoid interrogation). Along the way, Frank witnesses a shootout between gangsters, where an innocent civilian dies in the crossfire. Problem is, if he saves the civilian, he doesn't reach his boss in time. If he focuses on his primary mission, he sees the civilian die. Frank is eventually able to voluntarily invoke enough [[GroundhogDayLoop Groundhog Day Loops]] to [[TheGoodGuysAlwaysWin save both]].
* The title protagonist of ''Series/DoctorWho'' has lamented many times about the people and even whole races he couldn't save, including the Nestene, the Time Lords and even the Daleks and Davros, his greatest enemies. At least two occassions in the more recent series have seen him save the world/universe at the cost of losing a companion, leading him to decide he will be better by performing a HeroicSacrifice for them.
* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'': Captain Picard reveals to his brother he feels this way about his [[MindRape experience]] at the hands of the Borg.
-->'''Picard:''' They used me to ''kill'' and to ''destroy'' and I couldn't stop them! I should have been able to stop them! I tried. I tried ''so hard''! But I wasn't strong enough! I wasn't ''good'' enough. I should've been able to stop them. I should, ''I should''.
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'': Jon laments that his mission to Hardhome was a failure because he did not save enough people. Sam consoles him by pointing to the people he ''did'' save.
* In ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'', Sam, Dean, Bobby, and Castiel...hell, all the good guys (or semi-good) have this problem. They save a lot of people, but never the "ones they needed to" or "the ones they should have". Dean almost goes into HeroicBSOD after failing to save Sam from the trials without [[spoiler: allowing an evil angel to possess him and heal him from the inside, and then kill Kevin Tran, who Dean felt was his responsibility]].
* In ''Series/{{Elementary}}'', Sherlock actually ''encourages'' this mindset in his proteges; if they screw things up and apologise, he usually replies with "Don't be sorry, be better." In his view, being sorry leads to wallowing in guilt and self-recrimination which does nobody any good, and it's much more useful to make sure the mistake is not repeated in the future. He tries to hold himself to the same standards, and doesn't object when the same proteges call him out if he goes into a HeroicBSOD after mistakes of his own.
* This is one of the many issues of [[FallenHero Taiga]] [[JerkassWoobie Hanaya]] in ''Series/KamenRiderExAid''. He failed to save a patient at [[ApocalypseHow Zero Day]] and has been always holding onto this failure from that day onwards. While it helped him TakeALevelInBadass and generally keeps him going, it also makes him just a mess of self-loathing under prickly exterior. [[spoiler: This eventually leads to him being gravely injured in a fight against [[ArchEnemy Graphite]]. He scolds himself for failing to beat him (again) and apologizes to [[MoralityPet Nico]] for [[SorryThatImDying not being able]] to take care of her any further.]]
* In the ''Series/FamilyMatters'' episode "I Should Have Done Something", Carl is depressed because it's the one-year anniversary of an incident where he responded to a hostage situation at a convenience store that led to an innocent man getting shot and killed, and he feels guilty because he believes that things might have went differently had he done something to save the man.
-->'''Harriette:''' Listen to me, Carl, that was a year ago. It was ''not'' your fault.
-->'''Carl:''' I know that here. ''(points to his head)'' But the problem is...I'm not sure I know that ''here''. ''(points to his heart)''

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In a very meta way, speed runners often have this opinion of their successes. Sure, they just beat their personal record (or world record if they're really good), but after the dust is settled they can only think of every minor mistake they made on their run that added precious seconds to the clock. A much more lighthearted example of this trope, of course, because nobody would follow speed runners if they stopped trying for better times and they all enjoy what they do, even when they fail.
* ''Franchise/MassEffect''
** A [[TheParagon Paragon Shepard]] can fall into this, though it's hard to tell since (being player-controlled) s/he usually succeeds at everything with ease. S/he still has to make quite a few sacrifices which can verge into TheChainsOfCommanding and ItsAllMyFault territory.
** In the third game, [[DarkestHour the fall of]] [[spoiler:[[DarkestHour Thessia]]]] causes this.
--->'''Liara:''' [[YouDidEverythingYouCould You couldn't possibly have been prepared for this]].\\
'''Shepard:''' It's my job to be prepared, no matter what.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/MegaTokyo'': [[MagicalGirl Yuki]] has a variant of this in the [[AlternateUniverse unMod]] {{Bonus Material}} after she saves the [[SexSlave girls]] and the police officers, but not the traffickers. It's not clear whether she ''could'' have saved everyone, and chose not to, or she couldn't save everyone and prioritized the victims. Either way, [[BreakTheCutie her innocence has been tarnished.]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Digger}}'', after killing He-Is, berates herself for being unable to prevent [[spoiler:Ed's death.]]
* In ''Webcomic/OurLittleAdventure'', [[http://danielscreations.com/ola/comics/ep0190.html speculated as the motive for Julie's anguish over Pauline's death]].
* Vaarsuvius in ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'' went into a deep HeroicBSOD after [[AmbiguousGender hir]] magic was depleted in the Battle Of Azure City, rendering V incapable of saving hundreds of Azurites. Best seen in this quote:
-->'''Durkon:''' V, no one blames ye for runnin when ye ran out o' spells.\\
'''Vaarsuvius:''' Of course not. Fleeing at that point was the only sound tactical decision. I am saying that I am to blame for my magic not being powerful enough to avoid that situation in the first place. I could have saved the lives of countless soldiers with only a slightly greater application of arcane force, but I did not possess the requisite capacity.
* Grace in ''Webcomic/ElGoonishShive'', when she learns she was created as a weapon, immediately has the reaction that she should have fought against Damian, and blames herself for not doing so. Even though she was only ''intended'' to be a weapon, but one of the scientists involved decided to make her into [[ReplacementGoldfish something else]].

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Literature/{{Worm}}'', Eidolon is the single most powerful superhero on the planet. Capable of selecting and using any three powers at once, he is essentially the entire reason why humanity is still alive in the face of [[OmnicidalManiac the Endbringers.]] However, in spite of all his power, [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption he has never been able to kill any of the Endbringers]], and humanity is slowly being ground down. To make things worse, [[spoiler:his powers are slowly fading.]] It gets to the point where he hits himself with this after every major fight.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Aang of ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' feels this heavily at the beginning of Season 3, after the fall of Ba Sing Se. Somewhat justified, in that his initial RefusalOfTheCall meant he wasn't around to stop the war 100 years ago when it began (and he wasn't there when his people, the Air Nomads, were wiped out in a genocidal first strike by the Fire Nation, though since he was only 12, there wasn't much he could've done). This time, he was ''there'' at Ba Sing Se and still couldn't save the city from begin conquered.
* While it's usually never spoken of aloud, many versions of [[HurtingHero Optimus Prime]] of the ''Franchise/{{Transformers}}'' multiverse appear to take their failures very seriously.
* Leonardo in ''WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2003'' feels this way for a long time [[spoiler: after the turtles challenged Shredder while he was trying to leave Earth. They ended up soundly defeated by Shredder and resorted in the end to trying to overload the power core of the space ship. Something that they were all saved by thanks to the Utroms' stepping in on events. After Leo's frustrations and building anger over that hopeless situation leads to him accidentally injuring Splinter during training, he's sent off to train under The Ancient One, who manages to get it through to his head that he shouldn't be so hard on himself for doing his best.]]
-->'''Leonardo''': ''I did the best I could! There wasn't anymore I could have done!''
-->'''Ancient One''': ''If you did everything you could, [[ArmorPiercingQuestion then why do you keeping beating yourself up about it?]]''