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Inevitable Tournament
If I see one more story where some kids have to fight in a tournament to win some prize and prove they are masters at whatever it is they are doing, I’m going to explode.
The MegaMaster, on Mega Man Battle Network 3's similarities to Pokémon

In a video game, if someone, somewhere, mentions a tournament or large-scale competition being held, you will almost always end up competing in it. Most of the time, you won't have a choice.

The reasons for your entrance vary: you may need to win to convince someone to give you key information; the villains may hold a party member hostage; the prize itself may be a Plot Coupon; or you may have to compete or die (a form of Forced Prize Fight).

The actual mechanics of the tournament depend on the type of game. However, it's usually just a series of fights/duels/cooking challenges, whatever the game uses for conflict. Occasionally it'll be an Unexpected Gameplay Change and you'll have to start racing/playing soccer/bobbing for goldfish. This area is usually free from standard game rules in that losing does not end the game and winning does not give standard experience.

This is a highly compressed version of the Tournament Arc, reduced to a subplot rather than a story in itself. The tournament will be single-elimination, so you cannot progress if you lose a match, and your opponents will always get harder as you advance, even if proper seeding is entirely ignored.

Although the first forced entry to this event may not require you to actually win, jaunts back into this location later in the game can be a cheap Bonus Dungeon or Minigame Zone. When your Inevitable Tournament involves characters getting in fights, then this is a Gladiator Subquest.

Examples:

Action Adventure
  • Subverted in Beyond Good & Evil. There are hovercraft races that the player can voluntarily take part in. At one part in the game, the player is required to enter such a race, because the track has a backdoor entrance to a heavily guarded and otherwise unreachable place. The player doesn't have to win or finish the race, just get off the track at the right point. (In fact, if you do finish the race, you've just got to start another one so you can properly wander off!)
  • In Overlord II, you hear talk about the Arena for quite a bit of time. Guess where you end up at the end of your foray into the Empire after the Blue Minions.
  • In Red Dead Revolver, the local "battle royale" tournament at Brimstone is foreshadowed as early as first entering the town. Some of the bar patrons even talk about it. By the time you enter town for the fifth time, the entire town is talking about the tournament and basically implying not-too-subtly that the player ought to enter.
  • Averted in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. The tournament is over before the game begins and no tournaments are held throughout the game.

Fighting Game
  • This is the bread and butter of most Fighting Games' plots ever since their inception, as it provides an easy excuse and motivation to have ten-odd Arrogant Kung Fu Guys gathered and willing to kick the crap outta each other. Given that, it's actually much easier to just list those examples which avert the trope:
  • Evil Zone plays with this one, since the game plays like one of these, though plotwise it comes off as a "Standard Tournament For No Reason", since all the characters have a reason for wanting Ihadulca dead, and few to no reasons for wanting to fight one another.
  • Not storyline related, but in order to unlock all the characters in Dragon Ball Z Budokai you have to beat "tournament" mode on all difficulties.
  • Most fighting games based on pre-existing properties will tend to follow a storyline from the original source. Sometimes, a side-story is created for the game, but it's rarely a tournament. For example, in Bleach: Shattered Blade, the reason everyone is fighting each other is because the MacGuffin of this game causes competent fighters (and a few incompetent ones) to become violent and aggressive, and the Big Bad is playing them off each other as a distraction and to eliminate threats.

Mecha Game

MMORPGs
  • World of Warcraft in patch 3.2 added the Argent Tournament in Northrend where players fight in a coliseum type format in various challenges.
    • It's not, strictly speaking, inevitable — like every other quest and instance in the game, it can be skipped. Although at the moment of release, Trial of the Champion was intended as a graduation instance for new level 80 players to get their first epics, and Trial of the Crusader was the highest-tier endgame raid, with the release of patch 3.3 they have lessened in importance.
    • Arena or the entire concept of PVP really but especially Arena. This makes "tournaments" really important in World of Warcraft since PvP is invaluable to the success of World of Warcraft.
  • EVE Online: Twice a year CCP, the developers, hold the Alliance Tournament. A series of matches pitting small teams from various player Alliances against each other for cash prizes and unique ships. True to the spirit of EVE, it is plagued with player corruption. There are recorded incidents of ransoms being offered. A number of fights blatantly thrown, with one side activating their ship's self-destruct mechanisms or violating the rules. In the 8th Alliance Tournament, Hydra Reloaded negotiated said match throw while the match was still being fought(albeit victory for Hydra would have been all but academic at that point). After payment Hydra activated their self destructs and "lost".

Pinball

Platform Game
  • The Blackwater City hoverboard race tournament is briefly referred to toward the beginning of the original Ratchet & Clank. The player, sure enough, is later forced to enter and win in order to acquire an item.
    • Every Ratchet & Clank game since the first has an arena level, with at least one tournament being required to continue the game. "Deadlocked", the fourth game in the series, is nothing but one huge tournament.
  • In Banjo-Tooie, not once but twice do the bear and bird have to transform into a Stony to win a Jiggy in a Mayan kickball tournament.

Role-Playing Game
  • The events in the colosseum in Breath of Fire II, and Genmel in Breath of Fire III.
  • Colosso in Golden Sun is a more elaborate tournament than usual, but you're still forced to compete.
  • The Olympus Colosseum Preliminaries in Kingdom Hearts and the Struggle and later the Underworld Tournaments in Kingdom Hearts II.
  • The storyline-required blitzball tournament in Final Fantasy X.
    • Parodied in 8-Bit Theater with Drownball, which Fighter enters while his friends are slaughtering/taking a city.
    • Throughout the game, you can whisk yourself away at any time to play Blitzball, which has its own tournaments in the game clock. The only time you can't is when you're fugitives. Take Your Time, indeed.
  • An entire chapter of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is devoted to making one's way up the ranks in the Glitz Pit, a gladiatorial fighting arena. Once you've gotten to the top and beaten the chapter boss, Mario retires and his information is erased, letting you fight your way back to the top as a sidequest.
  • In Super Paper Mario, King Sammer insists that you defeat the Duel of 100, defeating 100 Sammer Guys, before he gives you the Pure Heart. The Duel is interrupted by the Void devouring the Sammer Guy world before you can finish, though you can play through its entirety as an optional Side Quest after you beat the game.
  • The Legend of Dragoon contains a mandatory weapons tournament you have to enter, but don't necessarily have to win, though winning gives a better reward than losing of course.
    • You can't actually win. No matter what you do in the opening rounds, you will advance (in fact, it's more fun to lose to see the ridiculous excuses they come up with to have you keep winning by default) and in the finals, you can't so much as scratch Lloyd.
  • The Inevitable Tournament is one of the most important plot points in Fable. It introduces the Big Bad, reveals important backstory and gives you the opportunity to kill a friend for money!
    • Fable also includes an optional fight club, with the catch being no armor and fists only.
    • Fable II features the Crucible, though it's less of a tournament and more of a death course. However, everyone in-game refers to it as a tournament and you can be crowned Crucible Champion, so... and it's not optional, of course.
  • Somewhat subverted in Jade Empire: you can compete in the Imperial Arena to advance the plot, but you don't have to. It has some significant (if optional) plot points, especially for one of your party members. It also features a bunch of rewards and a lot of tough and interesting fights.
  • Digimon World 2 requires you to win a few tournaments before you can advance the storyline.
  • While fighting in Trotmobile tournaments is part of Steambot Chronicles' Wide Open Sandbox nature, a scenario pops up at around the halfway point where you have to participate in a single-elimination tournament. The final opponent you face is the undefeated Elder in his "White Phantom" Trotmobile.
  • Star Ocean: The Second Story. As a bonus, get to Dias (you won't beat him) if you want to ever get the Infinity+1 Sword.
  • In Suikoden V the main character does not compete in the Sacred Games, a multi-layered fighting tournament meant to determine the future husband of the princess of Falena, despite its legendary status. Mainly this is because the main character is the prince of Falena and said princess is your little sister. You are required to participate in a ceremonial opening match, though, which leads to a rather hilarious cutscene if you win when it turns out nobody told your sister that it was only ceremonial...
  • Subverted in Ys VI: one of the Rehda tells you about an upcoming competition wherein the village warriors test your strength, hinting that Adol will be asked to compete... but then it gets called on account of the Romun Empire invading and abducting everyone.
  • The .hack//G.U. series has one of these in every game of the trilogy, as each game features a different level of the Arena's ranking structure for various level brackets. They are required for progress, and unless there's a pre-requisite to gaining a certain rank or fighting a number of battles first, all story fights are static. With enough Level Grinding, you can end up in story matches that you can win by offing all three opponents in a single attack.
  • There are a lot of these in Pokémon Colosseum, as the name implies. There are several arenas around Orre and you can enter into short tournaments at each one. There's also Mt. Battle, which you have to enter as part of the plot but later opens up to free challenges- it's a 100-battle gauntlet!
    • The Pokémon League at the end of every single Pokémon RPG to date. It's the whole bloody point (catching 'em all aside)...
      • The Elite Four isn't really a tournament, per se. Like the Fable example it's more an escalating-difficulty course.
    • There's also the Pokémon Contest / Super Contest in which Pokémon are judged for their looks rather than their battling ability. You don't have to enter these to advance the plot, however they do unlock bonus items. (Replaced by Pokemon Musical, a talent contest of sorts, and Pokéstar (a Hollywood expy) in Gen V, still optional and still rewarding you with bonus stuff.)
    • Played straight with the Pokémon World Tournament in Black 2/White 2, where you must enter one Driftveil Tournament. Further tournaments are optional.
  • The elaborately titled N1 Grand Prix in Megaman: Battle Network 3.
    • One of the main complaints against Megaman Battle Network 4 is the fact that most of the game involves you participating in three of these... while the approaching of a potentially world ending asteroid is treated as a B plot until you become involved in it at the very end of the game.
      • It should be noted, however, that when you do get involved at the end, it turns out that the two plots were connected all along—the asteroid is artificial and has an onboard computer, and they needed to find the best NetBattler to connect to it via a giant laser and stop it from hitting Earth, hence the tournament. However, it's not clear how far back this goes; it almost certainly doesn't apply to the first tournament (which was held before the scientists discovered this), and very likely only applies to the last one.
  • This trope is subverted in Mega Man Star Force 3; around the beginning of the game, everybody is talking about a Wizard tournament at the mall. When you go there, however, you see that Ace has already finished it, after which the Noise Wizards attack. Considering how similar the plot of the third game was to that of Battle Network's fourth, this could arguably be construed as a Take That to its hated predecessor.
  • Final Fantasy VII requires Cloud to engage in a round at the Battle Arena for the enjoyment of the proprietor. Afterwards, even if you lose round one to Mooks, you receive the Plot-Necessary Item.
    • It also has a second forced race to escape the Gold Saucer dumping grounds. You can of course return and use it to help obtain one of the Infinity+1 Sword -type spells.
  • The Starry Nights tournament in Dragon Quest Monsters is a rather large focal point of the game. The coliseum is also in nearly every Dragon Warrior ___ game and usually at least one match in it is required to progress the game.
    • Notably Dragon Quest IV, Alena has to do a solo fighting through a series of battle tournament fights in order to prevent a princess from marrying a male winner. You have to win the tournament to end her chapter.
    • In Dragon Quest VI is a non-battle version. You have to take part in a fashion/style contest. You are required to win the first three rounds because the prize for the third round is...a carpet. It might look ordinary, but it is a de-powered Magic Carpet that needs to be "refueled". There are further rounds, which are optional but give nice prizes, including at least one of the Infinity–1 Sword variety.
  • In Gothic one of the reputation tasks involved in joining the Old Camp was challenging a New Camp fighter in the camp's arena; you could win or lose and still earn the arena master's respect. Otherwise averted, despite the claim the next fight isn't for a couple of days, the area is never open proper (interviews have confirmed it was purposeful, rather than cut-content).
  • The Tales series almost always has an arena. It's rarely necessary to complete the tournament, though the Bonus Boss therein often coughs up some sweet stuff if you beat it, but you are often required to participate in a fight or three when the plot calls.
    • Star Ocean games as well. Considering the first Tales game essentially split off into the Tales and Star Ocean series, they share quite a few common elements despite now being made by entirely different companies.
  • Xenogears. The tournament and events surrounding it makes up an important chunk of the early game.
    • There are actually two tournaments, one with humans and one as an actual "fighting game" minigame with Gears. Both are required, but you can go back to the second one later and get prizes.
    • The human tournament is also played with- the purpose of fighting in it is to buy some time for another person. You don't have to win.
  • Somewhat averted in Lost Odyssey. The game has the Backyard Battles, but they're completely optional and are more a series of specific challenges than a tournament-style combat.
  • Knights of the Old Republic also has a combat tournament on the planet Taris which is related to the Bendak Starkiller sidequest players interested in picking up Dark Side points, but is otherwise optional. The game also features swoop races, where you have to compete to move the story forward.
  • Final Fantasy IX holds not one, but two Inevitable Tournaments. The first being a hunting tournament that you compete in against two other party members. The second is a card tournament. Both you must participate in, but you don't need to win either, although you still need to beat the first two opponents in the card tournament. In fact, the prize you get from the hunting tournament is better if you finish second instead of first.
    • To clarify, if Zidane (who the player controls in the tournament) wins, you get a cash prize (worthless, as you can grind for gil), If Vivi wins, you get a card (absolutely worthless, as it offers you nothing gameplay wise, just like every other card with the possible exception of one specific card that you can get without even touching the card game if you count being able to rename characters a gameplay feature). If Freya wins, you net yourself the Coral Ring, an accessory that you can't get anywhere else on Disk 1 and whose Thunder absorbing qualities just so happen to completely nullify the end-of-disk boss's most powerful single-target attack. You can also get a decent accessory for winning the final match of the card tournament, but there's plenty of other ways to get it by that point in the game.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features the Imperial Arena, which you can enter for gold and experience. It's entirely optional, though.
    • This is a Continuity Nod to Arena, including the posters for it (redrawn from that game's box art).
    • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind you had to fight Bolvyn Venim at the Vivec arena to be awarded the title of Hortator. No official tournament, but it inspired a mod or two.
    • Interestingly, the Mages Guild can culminate in an Arena fight between you and Archmage Trebonius Artorius, for the title of Archmage. The other option involves essentially getting him fired (it might seem as if you're missing out on the Necromancer's Amulet — a terrific artifact — that way, but there's a quest to get him to give it to you). You also fight Bolvyn Venim for the title of Archmaster of House Redoran if you're a member of that faction. And the Imperial Legion questline ends with a duel against the current Knight of the Imperial Dragon of the Order of Ebonheart (that is, the local leader of the Legion) over the title.
  • The Wild ARMs series likes to throw in arena battles though they are often not plot relevant.They usually contain some of the bonus bosses.Wild Arms 3 is the exception, making the completion of the lowest tournament tier required to get a plot required item.
  • Inevitable in the sense that there's inevitably a 'tournament quest' in a Bioware game, Dragon Age: Origins provides one in the dwarven Proving Ground. Depending on your choices you might not have to fight in it though.
  • Mount & Blade features randomly occurring tournaments in each of the large cities. They're not inevitable in the strictest sense, but entering them, placing massive bets on yourself, and winning is a very good way to get quick cash, and may be essential depending on how large and expensive your Redshirt Army is.
  • Surprisingly averted in Resonance of Fate. There is an arena right next to the starting zone, but you are never required by the plot to go there. Still, completing the fights gets you oodles of scrap parts and Battle Coins that can be spent on very valuable accessories.
  • Subverted in Baldur's Gate 2: when the Illithids capture your entire party, you are set up to fight in a tournament for your new mind-controlling masters' amusement, however, you can break out and organize a gladiator uprising before the tournament even begins.
    • The Enhanced Editions adds the Black Pit set of adventurers (they're separate from the main adventure, and canonically are not done by the same characters), which consists entirely of tournaments done for your masters' amusement until the equally inevitable gladiator uprising (Black Pits starts with you getting kidnapped for Baeloth's Pits, and ends when, after grinding your way up the ranks of the gladiators, you manage to overthrow Baeloth and escape to freedom. Black Pits 2 starts with you getting kidnapped for a Thayvan arena, and ends when, after grinding your way up the ranks of the gladiators, you overthrow the master of the arena and is diverted somewhere else by an angry and crazy resurrected Baeloth.
  • Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden features a tournament in the B-Ball Dimension. It's possible to enter and fight a series of Duel Bosses using only Charles in your party.
  • Quest for Glory V being a lot more fight heavy than the previous instalments, which are more Action Adventure, you'd think the giant Colosseum in town leads to this. It's not, the fights in there are a Side Quest that runs optionally in the beginning of the game.
  • The martial arts tournament at the Zen Zone in Lunar: Eternal Blue.
  • Inazuma Eleven 3 is all about tournaments. Not only that you have to play through a Football Frontier International, you can set up your own mini tournament to play older teams from the prequels.
  • Legend of Legaia and its sequel have a fighting arena. Only the second game requires that you actually compete.
  • Averted in Solatorobo. Yes, there is a tournament in the form of the Duel Ship, but it's entirely optional. Only a few of the battles have skill points as a prize (which'll help inflate your rank as a Hunter), whereas most of the time you'll just recieve cash as a prize. It's still probably one of the fastest ways to grind money for the overpriced New Game+-exclusive Dahak frame upgrades outside of playing through the story again.
  • Trails in the Sky FC has a plot-forced tournament in the last chapter, with the winner invited to dinner at Grancel Castle. A particularly fun one - after fighting The Ravens, Kurt, Anelace, and company, the player has their first fight with Lt. Lorence.
  • In Robopon, this happens a lot in both games as part of the main plot.

Stealth-Based Game
  • Assassin's Creed II has one during Venice's Carnivale. It features a boxing tournament, stealing ribbons from pretty ladies, and... um... Capture the Flag. Played with in two ways: First, Ezio willingly enters the tournament as part of a Batman Gambit arranged by the local Hooker with a Heart of Gold (who's a nun, btw) to get a pass to a party arranged by his target; and secondly, although Ezio wins, the Carnivale organizers are bribed by the target's associates and rigs the final results. So after that, you just steal the golden mask from the guy.

Turn-Based Strategy
  • The initial part of Dark Sun: Shattered Lands was spent in the gladiatorial pits, giving the player several chances to escape to freedom and the rest of the game. Of course, you could ignore these opportunities and continue fighting opponents in the arena, who continued to get stronger to match your current level. You can get absurdly powerful after a few hours of these matches and can then simply wade through the guards at the front gate.
  • Disgaea 2 has one of these spread across two chapters and the aftermath in its own chapter. The whole thing was just to lure out Etna and erase everyone else out to kill Zenon. It didn't go as planned.

Derby/Car Combat
  • The title tournament in Twisted Metal is the central focus in every entry of the series.

Non-video game examples:

Anime and Manga

Film
  • The pod-racing in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The prize money is needed to advance the plot, since Republic credits are no good on Tatooine.

Literature
  • The Tri-Wizard Tournament, of course.
    • He didn't have to participate.
      • Having one's name emerge from the Goblet of Fire constitutes a binding magical contract, which (while not very well explained but presumably similar to an Unbreakable Vow) is certainly enough to guarantee Harry's involvement.
  • In a variation on the theme, try as he might, Eddard Stark couldn't stop his friend the king from holding an exorbitant tournament in his honor after naming him Hand of the King, never mind that the kingdom is basically bankrupt.
  • In the Apprentice Adept series, Stile's entry into the Tourney of Proton was quite inevitable and forced by circumstances. He had been training to enter the Tourney in three years, but he got on the bad side of the capricious ruling class of Citizens (being fired for an incident that wasn't his fault), and most of the time when that happens to someone, they have to leave their home planet of Proton forever. He was able to find an employer willing to let him stay, but he had to play the Tourney of Proton immediately, before he was truly ready for the task. And the penalty for losing the Tourney would have been—once again—having to leave Proton forever.

Web Comics

Western Animation
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