Let's be blunt: In most Boss Battles
, there is only one "correct" outcome to the battle, and the game will not proceed until it occurs. Get slaughtered by a boss? Unless that was the point
, go back to your Save Point
and try again.
But sometimes The Dev Team Thinks of Everything
and allows the game to proceed regardless of whether the player won or lost the battle in question.
Obviously, failure to defeat this boss means the player loses out on the opportunity to collect Experience Points
, money, or items associated with victory, but some games may secretly record this outcome for future reference, allowing it to have subtle effects later on.
The Monster Arena
is a popular venue for hosting open-ended battles, although the outcome of these battles rarely extends outside the bounds of the venue itself.
Note that getting a Nonstandard Game Over
or an ending
from getting the unexpected outcome of the fight is not this trope.
Subtrope of Boss Battle
. Contrast Hopeless Boss Fight
, Heads I Win, Tails You Lose
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- In Breath of Fire III, although the player loses their first fight against Balio and Sunder, when Ryu battles them later to save princess Nina from abduction, the player may win or lose that battle without penalty.
- In Pokémon Red and Blue, the player's very first Mon battle was against their rival, and they could win or lose this fight without penalty or consequence, although the "Special Yellow edition" used this as a factor to determine which form The Rival would ultimately evolve his starting 'Mon into.
- In the first Shadow Hearts game, Kouldeka, whether or not the player could defeat the game's Final Boss determined whether they earned the game's Good or Bad Ending, with the latter being considered canon. What makes this unique is losing is what gives the good ending.
- In Chrono Trigger in the Kingdom of Zeal, the plot requires you to be captured. To this end, a Golem is sent to attack the party. While the standard fare would be to lose to the monster, you can actually defeat it (in fact it can be pathetically easy if you know how). Doing so results in the summoner using the "look behind you" trick then shooting you in the back. All winning does is net some decent EXP.
- In Chrono Cross, the third battle with Lynx, AKA the one that happens directly after the Serge/Lynx body swap that pits you against your former party members plays out like a Hopeless Boss Fight, unless you're playing on New Game+, at which point it becomes possible to win. However, if you do, Kid gets back up and stabs you anyway, so there's really no point other than bragging rights.
- Except for the last Lufia game, the mad gods known as "Sinistrals" could only be killed with a magic sword called "the Dual Blade." However, defeating one in combat prior to obtaining it would result in a rare equipment drop, and a slightly altered cut-scene afterward where the Sinistral blinks, then uses non-combat cutscene powers to defeat your characters anyways.
- Xenogears has the battle against Alpha Weltall, which is nearly impossible to win unless you've gone all out preparing for it and get a little lucky. The game proceeds exactly the same either the way; however, if you do win you get the Slayer Robe, which is the best on-foot armor in the game (and that only appears if you have the Trader Card equipped, which makes rare drops more frequent and is difficult to get ahold of in the first place).
- Tales of Symphonia has a famous three-boss sequence at a spoilerrific important scene that goes regular boss -> Open Ended Boss Battle -> Hopeless Boss Fight. If you lose, the boss can't bring himself to finish you off because he's the main character's father. If you win, he can't finish you off because, well, he lost. Either way, this is where the Hopeless Boss Fight steps in to finish the job.
- Golden Sun
- In the first game, the Colosso competition can end in your Victory or Defeat of the tournament. Winning nets you an extra item and (if you export your save data) an extra scene and an unique item in the following game. Loss still advances the plot, but with fewer goodies.
- The battle against Agatio and Karst on top of Jupiter Lighthouse in the second game is also like this. After the battle is over, Alex shows up, heals the losing team, then the three of them run away, and the plot advances like normal. But if you win, you get a bunch of money and XP and a chunk of Dark Matter.
- In the first Kingdom Hearts, when Sora first arrives in Traverse Town, Leon fights you in the town square. There's no penalty for losing, and it is very difficult to win (unless you're aware of a certain flaw in your opponent). If you do win, Sora will delight in his win (and major EXP gain) and then promptly pass out. The next scene will have Leon praising Sora, instead of the usual "This is supposed to be the Keyblade master?!". You can also get an Elixir from Yuffie afterward.
- Other boss fights where the story continues whether you win or lose are the first battles against Darkside in the prologue, Sabor in Deep Jungle, and Cloud in Olympus Coliseum. All of these examples (Leon included) are cases of Heads I Win, Tails You Lose.
- Early on in Secret of Evermore, you're attacked by 4 Raptors. If you lose, your dog drags you to the nearby village and a NPC heals you. If you win, you get money and continue on into said village, where another NPC rewards you with an earlygame armor for free.
- In Arc Rise Fantasia, there are summons that go to the strongest of two parties after certain battles. You can both win and lose these battles, and change the summons that you and your rival can use.
- In Mother 3, there's the Almost Mecha Lion in the Chimera Lab. Win or lose, a Clayman will finish it afterwards.
- In Paper Mario, the Dojo fights are optional, and if you lose, you'll be fine with 1 HP and can rematch the person who beat you whenever. In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the Glitz Pit works this way. In fact, every battle in Chapter 3 is one of these (though you will have to rematch if you lose, except for the grudge matches) except for the Armored Harriers without the party member you get in the chapter, which is a Hopeless Boss Fight, and Macho Grubba, the Chapter Boss, who wants to drain your energy.
- In Jay's Journey, you have to fight Puff early on when he mistakes Jay for working with Antignarot. You miss out on a Defense booster if you lose, but that's all; either way, the misunderstanding is cleared up and Puff joins Jay's party.
- In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World the fight against Ratatosk is this. Interesting in that even though it's the final boss fight whether you win or lose absolutely nothing changes.
- In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness; early on; one can get attacked by a nameless "Alternate Overlord" who turns into multiple smaller copies and attacks. If you lose; Laharl's father's minions; each about level 500 or so; come in as temporary allies and easily stomp them. If you win; either through Level Grinding or New Game+; the game simply continues with no commentary.
- In Tales of Xillia, the first fight against Agria in Jude's story and the first fight against Gaius can be won or lost, the only difference being that you'll miss out on rewards.
- The final fight against the Oracle in Fahrenheit can be won or lost. In the former case, Lucas gets to fight the Cyborg later, while in the latter, you take control of Carla in an attempt to save Lucas — which you can also fail, giving you one of the three endings. The other two are received for either beating or losing to the Cyborg.
- Heavy Rain is basically all about this. Just about every fight can be won or lost, which can even result in the death of main characters... and the story will just keep going. Of course, this affects the outcome of the game and who makes it to the final stage.
- During story mode, in Rival Schools, your team will encounter Raizo as the third battle. You're meant to lose the match, after which a designated member of your team is taken hostage while the other two are brainwashed and made to do Raizo's bidding for the next two battles. Depending on the team and their story, the effects of Raizo's mind control either wear off, or you're restored to your senses, after the second battle following the Raizo encounter.
- On the off-chance that you manage to defeat Raizo, the game skips the mind control phase of the story and cuts directly to the battle with Justice High. You still lose a member of your team, however, as the story demands this happen. They're either kidnapped by Raizo, after the battle, or they proceed to Justice High on their own to speed up the team's investigation. By the time you arrive, you learn your missing teammate was caught snooping and is now a hostage.
- Trapt: If you decide to fight the final boss, you get some interesting results, depending on the outcome. If you lose, Princess Allura/Alicea will get possessed by the demon without anyone the wiser. If you win, the Princess will vanquish the demon, and go back to the castle with her faithful knight.
Massively Multiplayer Online Games
- In original Guild Wars, the bonus objective of the Dragon's Lair mission involves killing a major character. If you lose, your character is simply resurrected, and completes the mission anyway. If you win, the character's death has no effect on the story, and they still communicate with you at some later points.
- In the Mega Man Zero series, if the player loses a life out on a mission, they may be given the option to "give up", where the mission is a failure but the story continues without the mission's rewards.
- In the 1987 shooter Dragon Spirit, the game's Warm-Up Boss determined whether the player progressed in "Easy" or "Hard" mode, with "Easy" mode giving the player a stronger dragon before revealing it as All Just a Dream, and "Hard" mode featuring two additional levels and the game's True Final Boss.
- In an old arcade game called The Ocean Hunter, you, at one point, encountered a shark, tougher than the rest, tearing at a scuba diver. If you managed to kill the shark before the diver died, you got an extra life and a Bonus Boss— but nothing happened if you didn't manage to save him.
- In Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl, after riding the subway, you come up against two gang leaders; depending on whether you beat them or lose to them, you go down a different path and eventually get a different ending. Interestingly, it is losing to them that will lead to the best ending you can get at that pointnote .
- In Dragon Age: Origins, during a certain rescue mission, the player is confronted by the powerful Ser Cauthien. If the player manages to defeat her, the mission is complete and they may return to their Quest Giver immediately. If the player is defeated, they are thrown into prison and must find a way to escape (and will fight her later).
- In every single Fallout game, many bosses (And most of the major final bosses) you can avoid the battle entirely with charisma or sneaking alone. Don't feel like killing the Master in an epic boss battle? If your skills are high enough, convince him to commit suicide. Don't want to do the final test at the beginning of Fallout 2? Talk the guy out of it. In Fallout 3, you could kill the Overseer and take his keys, or blackmail him to give you the keys, or rob him blind when he's not looking, or avoid him entirely and raid his office. This counts for the trope, because in the Fallout Series, most of the time the boss battle isn't the "Fight itself" you have to win, but just getting past the scenario in general.