Jason: He's the most lethal video game creature ever! He towers above you with fists like anvils! Skulls litter the ground at his feet! And you're not supposed to even try to take this guy on in a fight??... Wow, talk about counter-intuitive.Any type of confrontation where the hero's only way to win it is ... to stop trying to defeat their opponent; eventually the enemy will tire himself out (become bored, etc.) and the hero will achieve a victory for their pacifism. The reasons behind this vary — sometimes the opponent is literally fueled by the hero's aggressive energy (or is a literal figment of the hero's imagination) so putting a stop to their hostility the enemy will literally weaken (and/or cease to exist). Maybe the opponent has an overdeveloped sense of honor and refuses to strike down someone who won't keep their weapon in hand. Or perhaps the confrontation was just a big misunderstanding (Poor Communication Kills, you know) and standing down will buy time for both sides to figure out that they shouldn't even be fighting each other in the first place. (Some Crossover stories are prone to this, with the heroes from each series somehow finding themselves in the others' crosshairs.) Overlaps with Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand, where Bob confronts an aggressive Alice with nonaggression and hopes to win by getting her to stand down too. Whatever the case, until the hero actually figures this out, they will feel presented with an opponent more formidable than any other; they may as well be fighting a mirror. When this is applied to Video Games, it tends to mix elements of a Hopeless Boss Fight (because, more often than not, the opponent is made literally invincible to all attacks), a Waiting Puzzle and/or Hold the Line objective (because if the party dies, it's still Game Over). Hopefully the player will be given some hint that this is the goal (perhaps via advice from a Spirit Advisor), so that they don't have to expend their entire stock of healing magic/items trying to beat an impossible enemy. Also note that depending on whether the game proceeds in real-time or in turns, sometimes simply waiting is not enough, and the player needs to take some kind of non-hostile action (e.g. the Defend Command) to make time pass. (In fact, for some games this is the only time the Defend Command is of any practical use.) Compare Puzzle Boss (where you're not necessarily fighting the boss, but still need to take action to defeat it, perhaps indirectly), Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay, and Why Isn't It Attacking?. Contrast Violence Is the Only Option. See also Failure Gambit, where this path is the only way to prevent the gambit's success. Not to be confused with sheathing your weapon for tactical purposes.
Paige: Refresh my memory, you spend how many nanoseconds in the real world each day?
Paige: Refresh my memory, you spend how many nanoseconds in the real world each day?
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Anime & Manga
- In The Vision of Escaflowne, dragons are empathic and respond to human (or possibly just Draconian) emotions. Come at them all aggressive-like and they'll tear you a new one (unless you're just Badass enough to take them on). Throw down your sword and make with the peacefulness, and they'll get bored and wander off.
- Used in the Brave Story movie during the climactic battle against their respective doppelgangers. The hero Wataru ends up winning the fight by accepting that his shadow is a part of himself, all the parts of himself that he was afraid to acknowledge. The anti-hero Mitsuru wins the fight by stabbing his shadow through the chest... and you guessed it, dies of a self-inflicted stab wound.
- Naruto did pretty much the same thing against his inner darkness, and even acknowledges that it actually helped him in some points of his life.
- Fairy Tail has this during the S Class trial arc. Natsu has to fight Gildarts in order to advance. After putting up a good fight, Gildarts says that Natsu is just missing one critical element to pass... and then he stops holding back his power. Natsu is so scared that he falls to his knees and admits defeat, which is exactly what Gildarts was hoping for.
- Mysterious Girlfriend X: Best option to use against panty scissors, unless you have your own special attack.
- In Bleach Ichigo enters some last minute training with Zangetsu before his final battle with Aizen. Zangetsu explains that he won't simply tell Ichigo the ultimate technique of his power and proceeds to fight him. After a bit of swordplay that doesn't seem to go anywhere, Ichigo figures out he won't learn the secret by pure force by fighting, but, rather, by letting Zangetsu stab him. This is exactly what the spirit wanted and gives Ichigo his power for the final confrontation. To be noted is how Zangetsu's second purpose was to get Ichigo to accept his Superpowered Evil Side as part of him.
- in Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin has to fight one of Shishio's Elite Mooks in front of his archenemy. Not wanting to reveal any of his techniques, he wins the battle... by running away from him until the guy breaks his leg from chasing after him. But it's then subverted when Kenshin is forced to reveal one of his techniques to save the mook himself from Shishio.
- In Umi Monogatari, the Big Bad, Sedna, is a force of darkness that has corrupted the island and will consume both land and sea. Marin and Kanon are told throughout the series that they must seal her away with the Spear of Light, and to not hesitate to defeat Sedna even if it means attacking their friends. However, when they find out that Sedna is really the islanders' combined sorrow, they accept the darkness within their hearts and deal with it rather than throwing it away.
- In Kill la Kill, Ryuko attempted this against Gamagoori, who gets stronger when struck, but it fails because he simply whips himself to get the strength he needs, and she's forced to find another way to beat him.
- Another example in a previous episode when Mako's family is given better living conditions when Ryuko and her try to play by the Academy's rules by starting their own club. However the richer lifestyle changes the family for the worst which Ryuko notices and quits the club. Satsuki gives Mako a two star Goku uniform and has her fight Ryuko if she wants to keep her lifestyle. After bit of fighting, Ryuko purposely de-powers, refusing to fight further and just let's Mako wail on her. This goes on till sunset till it looks like Mako is going to finish her. Mako stops short of the final blow and realizes her greed, calling out her own family for not trying to stop her. This of course was Ryuko's plan all along to get her to come to her senses.
- Done in the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's manga when Yuusei takes a test to gain the Stardust Spark Dragon. He starts out by riding at it full force to attack it head on. But then remembers some earlier advice Akiza had told him and quickly snaps out of it. He then notices that the Stardust Spark Dragon is crying and sees through its memories of previous duelers who attempted to acquire it, making the mistake he nearly did. Yuusei then drops his speed and lets the Stardust Spark Dragon attack him. Which allows him to be seen as worthy of wielding it and gain its card.
- Many card games, including Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!, list running out of cards to draw as a lose condition. This has led to the "Deck out" style of play (also known as "milling"), where you remove cards from their deck, sometimes by making them draw, and do nothing else but defend against attacks. The downside to this is, of course, giving your opponent immense resources and could possibly allow him to pull off a powerful combo.
- Superman once defeated the Hulk by allowing him to whale on his indestructible body until the Hulk wore himself out and reverted back to Banner. Doubly so, he also spotted and destroyed a microscopic irritant that was keeping the Hulk enraged.
- He defeated Spider-Man this way too in a very early inter-company crossover. Once he realized that he likely would have killed Spidey if he had hit him, he just let Spidey punch him until Spidey realized it was pointless and gave up. (Then they finally realized they were on the same side, and joined forces against Lex Luthor and Doc Ock.)
- The way Scott Pilgrim deals with The Negascott. Counts as an Awesome Moment as it shows how Scott has matured.
- One incarnation of Justice League of America villain Amazo could adjust to duplicate the powers and abilities of any incarnation of the Justice League, so the more reserves they call in the more powerful he becomes. The Atom realized that this Amazo was a "one-man-Justice-League" on a conceptual level, and therefore the JLA chairman, Superman, had the one power that could defeat him; the power to disband the JLA. The android was promptly Brought Down to Normal.
- As one of his trials to become Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange had to meet Death in combat. After doing everything he could to fight or escape Death, he resigned himself to defeat and surrendered entirely to it — becoming immortal.
- In Guardians of the Galaxy (the classic series), Starhawk once fought an enemy called Tachyon, who could anticipate and counter all Starhawk's attacks. Realizing that all Tachyon's moves were reactive, Starhawk simply stopped fighting and stood floating. Tachyon did the same.
- One Fantastic Four story had Maximus the Mad attacking the Inhumans with a robot that fed off of the aggression between the Inhumans and the Alpha Primitives. By stopping the fight, the robot shut down.
- In Swordquest: Earthworld, the protagonists learn that battles aren't always won by violence.
- In the Sonic In Your Face Special, the first story has Sonic and the Freedom Fighters being attacked by a giant robot cyclops. When he learns that the robot is designed to attack anything that moves, Sonic decides to stand perfectly still, and has the others do likewise. Sure enough, the robot shuts down after a few minutes.
- The Shadow Hero has a variation on this trope: The Big Bad Ten Grand is empowered by an ancient Chinese god who has promised him that all his fights will end with his victory. So The Hero Hank Chu surrenders. Since the fight is technically over, Ten Grand can no longer harm Hank.
- In one of the rororotfuchs book backcover comics, the fox "battles" (a slightly out-of-character) Superman who boasts he will win against anyone. He lists up all his superpowers but the fox repeats "Not against me". Finally, Superman desperately asks "How?". The fox refers to this trope and just walks away with his buddies, leaving a dumbfounded Superman.
- In a What If? story of Paperinik New Adventures Paperinik and the US Army were confronted by the newest breed of Evronian Super Soldiers, who were strong enough to tear tanks apart, tough enough that nothing less than heavy ordnance could kill them, fast enough to dodge that, and had an accelerated version of the Evronian Emotion Eater metabolism that allowed them to feed on the hate and fear of those who opposed them. Due the first one to appear having bragged about them having been based on Angus Fangus (a journalist with an uncanny talent for spotting the worst in people), Paperinik was able to realize the last part and got the soldiers to simply stand down, resulting in the Evronian super soldiers instantly starving and dying.
- Referenced in a FoxTrot strip. Jason, frustrated that he'd tried everything he could think of to beat a boss, leaves the room for a minute. When he returns, he finds out that his sister Paige "beat" the boss... by simply walking past it. Their mother tells Jason that the message is obviously "Discretion is the better part of valor", but he's too upset to care.
Films — Live-Action
- Used in the movie version of Prince Caspian, when Caspian, after seeing an entire squadron of Telmarine assassins downed by something underfoot, is himself tripped and set upon by the unseen assailant... Reepicheep the Mouse. Reepicheep orders Caspian to retrieve his sword and face him in honorable combat, as he refuses to kill an unarmed man. Caspian's reply: "Then I'll live longer if I don't." Reepicheep doesn't have infinite patience, though, so this tactic doesn't last Caspian forever.
- Joshua's lesson in WarGames. To elaborate: Joshua/WOPR is a Supercomputer in charge of NATO's nuclear arsenal. He was hacked and tricked into playing Global Thermonuclear War by the teenage hero David, with David playing the role of the USSR. So Joshua ends up going all out and as the movie progresses, he works at starting this war and winning. At the end, David, with the help of Joshua's creator, gets Joshua to play Tic-Tac-Toe against himself. Since Joshua plays to win, every move is the optimal move, resulting in a tie game. Joshua goes through every permutation of the game and then correlates this to Global Thermonuclear War, realizing if everyone everywhere launches all the nukes, there will be no survivors and thus no winners. This leads to Joshua's conclusion, "the only winning move is not to play."
- At the end of The Matrix Trilogy, Neo defeats Smith by allowing himself to be assimilated, thus providing the Source with a direct line into its rebellious ex-servant.
- In Resident Evil: Apocalypse, LJ is confronted by Nemesis. LJ drops his weapons and puts his hands up. Nemesis' HUD designates him a non-combatant and leaves.
- When Duncan has The Guardian at his mercy in Highlander: The Source, he insists that Duncan behead him and take his place. Duncan refuses and goes to claim the prize. This makes The Guardian explode.
- At the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, after nearly killing Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker realizes that his aggression is turning him to the dark side, and throws his lightsaber away.
- The Dark Side Cave on Dagobah. Luke was not supposed to meet the apparition of Darth Vader with a lightsaber. He did, anyway, failed the test and saw his own face in Vader's helmet as a warning.
- Hulk Hogan's movie Suburban Commando had a situation like this. Early in the story, an old veteran tells the protagonist about a soldier he knew who did something like this to save his buddies during a war, saying, "Sometimes you have to lose in order to win." At the climax of the movie, where the villain is holding his friends hostage and demanding he show himself, he decides that it's sound advice, and does the same thing. (Fortunately, one of them decides to return the favor.)
- In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve's final battle with the titular villain ends this way. The fight starts out brutal, but after Steve completes his objective of stopping the three Helicarriers, he refuses to continue to fight his brainwashed best friend. To illustrate that, he drops his iconic shield into the Potomac below, and gives Bucky an Ironic Echo. Steve doesn't really win the fight this way, but after he drops unconscious into the Potomac himself, the Winter Soldier rescues him.
- In the Choose Your Own Adventure series World of Lone Wolf book 4, Beyond the Nightmare Gate, the Chaos Master sends against the hero Grey Star his evil doppelganger; both seek the Moonstone, and he attacks you when you finally find it. If you win the fight, you die, but if you don't fight, or if you lose the fight, he dies and you win.
- In the RPG-inspired book, manga, and movie Brave Story, the hero, Wataru, gets thrown into a Mirror Boss with a shadowy version of himself. He and it proceed to beat each other up, with neither side truly winning, until Wataru realizes that he can't fight it. It's made up of all his fear, anger, hatred, and sorrow — his negative emotions. And no matter what he does, all his negative emotions will always be part of him. Instead, he accepts it, and he comfortably takes it back into himself. Mitsuru isn't so lucky...
- In the game-within-a-story of Ender's Game, Ender consistently reaches a tower in the game, crushes a snake that tries to kill him, and gets himself killed trying to proceed. Fed up, he eventually picks the snake up and tries to get it to bite him—but he screws up the control input and accidentally kisses it. It turns into his sister, because the Rule of Symbolism is weird like that.
- In John Scalzi's The Android's Dream, two Virtual Ghosts argue over the proper way to deal with a situation, and the more experienced one proposes to make her point with a simulation of the battle in which the less experienced one originally died. She'll take control of the enemy forces, he'll control the forces he fought in, and his job is to keep it from becoming a bloodbath like it did in real life. His forces are too badly outgunned to ever win, so in the final iteration he surrenders at the first sight of the enemy, preserving the lives of all his troops.
- In Witches Brew, one of the champions sent by Lord Rydall, the fake Big Bad of the book, is a knight resembling the Paladin, the champion of Landover. The Paladin fights the knight but finds his opponent can perfectly match him blow for blow. The knight is only defeated when the Paladin sheathes his weapon and disappears, causing his doppelganger to do the same.
- In The Death Gate Cycle series by Weiss and Hickman, the evil dragons feed on violence and hatred : Haplo and Alfred can't win against them by fighting. They still win, though, by renouncing to fight and letting the place they're in at the moment (which has been cursed to ban any violence) use the dragon's own violence against him.
- Drizzt does this in The Dark Elf Trilogy when fighting his father's raised corpse. First, he fights him in a manner that brings out his personality, then he sheathes the swords. His father manages to regain control long enough to exchange a few words, and then jump into the conveniently close acid lake.
- In the novel 1636: The Saxon Uprising, this is how the USE remains intact when Axel Oxenstierna tries to stage an uprising to seize power. The USE members stay strictly within the bounds of the law, despite enormous temptation to fight, thus preserving the USE.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog in Robotnik's Laboratory The only way to get out of the spring traps (which are literally coiled springs) was to stop struggling at which point they just break apart.
- In Space Demons, this turned out to be the way to win the eponymous video game.
- In Pact, when Alister Behaim, the new head of the Behaim Circle, is facing down Blake Thorburn, who killed his predecessor and has spent the evening killing at least ten other practitioners of various types, he opts for this trope by handing Blake the key to the Bequeathed Power his family has been accumulating for the past several centuries and offering to let Blake destroy it. This stops Blake in his tracks for long enough that Alister is able to convince him that they both have bigger problems to deal with.
- Maybe (the author merely suggests it) the military is literarily fighting against itself (the enemy is sort of a time mirror?) in the SF story "Traveller's Rest" by David I. Masson. In that case, the trope would apply.
- In the Star Wars Jedi Academy Trilogy, this trope punctuates Kyp Durron's Heel–Face Turn in a Secret Test of Character: he is confronted in the Jedi Temple by a hooded Force ghost whom he identifies as the Sith who had manipulated him into joining the Dark Side; when he refuses to attack, it reveals itself as the spirit of his brother, whom he had killed by accident, and departs in peace.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- In the episode "Hero Worship", a Negative Space Wedgie that destroyed a science vessel is battering the Enterprise repeatedly. Captain Picard orders more and more power to the shields, but the attacks continue to get worse. When the other ship's only survivor says their captain did the same thing, Data discovers that the anomaly is just reflecting all the energy back at them. The solution is instead to drop the shields, giving it nothing to reflect.
- In the episode "Peak Performance", Data is pitted in a friendly game with a visiting Alien who is the galaxy's champion at this game. He is soundly defeated by the smug alien, unable to match his offense or defense. In a rematch at the end of the episode, Data wins by playing for a tie instead of a victory, rather than trying to gain advantage or take the lead when chances occur, he chooses moves which favor neither player in the long run and promote stalemate. The alien is unable to defeat the android, and storms off in a huff over the maddening strategy.
- Even later, the episode "Gambit" gives us an ancient Vulcan artifact that works like a psychic weapon, amplifying the telepathic abilities of the wielder to instantly kill anyone who even thinks aggressive thoughts. Naturally it lost its power to destroy the Vulcan people once they found their inner peace through logic and the abandonment of emotion.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- In the episode "The House of Quark", the title Ferengi is challenged to a duel to the death by a Klingon named D'Ghor. Fighting would almost certainly get him killed, but refusing would dishonor the Klingon woman he's been trying to help. His solution is to show up, throw his weapon aside, kneel down, and dare the Klingon to murder him in cold blood, without any honor or glory. D'Ghor goes right ahead and tries it, but Chancellor Gowron stops him and, disgusted at such a dishonorable act, discommendates him on the spot. A Crowning Moment of Awesome for Quark for sure.
- In a later episode, Quark once again meets his Klingon ex-wife (she divorced him at the end of "The House of Quark" at his request) and is now enamored with her. However, one of her servants is disgusted by a Ferengi putting the moves on his mistress and challenges him to a duel. When asked by Worf what he plans to do, Quark suggests doing the same thing as before. Worf replies that, last time, he was only saved by Gowron. This time, he would get his head cut off. Instead, they have Worf remotely control Quark. After "Quark" wins, he makes as if to finish off the Klingon... only for Worf to force him to step away. Nobody said this particular duel had to be to the death. The female Klingon declares his honor satisfied and fires him.
- In Highlander, there's a much-maligned three-episode arc where protagonist Duncan MacLeod is the Chosen One to fight against the evil demon Ahriman. Violence won't work in this battle, and the only way to defeat Ahriman is for Duncan to achieve inner peace.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Justice", the crew are aboard a penal space station with a section where it's impossible to commit a crime and anyone who attempts it becomes the victim (for example, the punishment for arson is being set on fire). This works in their favor when an almost-unbeatable droid tries to murder them.
- In the "Absolute Power" episode of Stargate SG-1, Shifu (the Harcesis) and Oma Desala view utilizing the Goa'uld genetic memory this way. In this case, though, it's less "not fighting the bad guy" and more "sealing off the Goa'uld memories in the subconscious since no-one can control the evil that comes with using the knowledge."
Shifu: Oma teaches the evil in my subconscious is too strong to resist and the only way to win is to deny it battle.
- In the Doctor Who story "Warriors' Gate," the time-sensitive Biroc tells the Doctor to "do nothing" in the face of impending doom. "Of course," the Doctor muses, "if it's the right sort of nothing." Meanwhile, the insane Captain Rorvik's attempts to "get something done" result in that same impending doom.
The Doctor: If we fight like animals, we'll die like animals!
- The final episode of the classic series, "Survival" is about The Doctor and Ace refusing to do violence to keep themselves from being transformed into violent cat aliens.
- An episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys had the villain Jarton defeated this way.
- In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), Sam realizes that the only way to frustrate the Yellow-Eyed Demon's plan is to get the Special Children to stop fighting each other and work together. Sam even convinces Jake to put down his weapon after Sam puts down his knife. But this was a Subverted Trope as Jake was not convinced and didn't really need a weapon with his Super Strength.
- A Planescape quest titled The Deva Spark features a battle with a demon who only grows stronger if the players attack it. The only way to win the encounter is to avoid fighting the fiend.
- A short story in the Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game supplement Tales of the Jedi Companion gives the story of the fall of Freedon Nadd, an extremely powerful and promising Jedi apprentice (and later one of the strongest Sith Lords ever to live). He is passed over for promotion to Jedi Knight when the time came, despite being the most powerful apprentice of his era. He angrily confronts his master, demanding an explanation. She tells him that if he is truly a Jedi Knight, to prove it, as she ignites her lightsaber. Nadd takes that as a challenge to a duel, and engages her in a massive duel, which she loses, and plunges her former apprentice thoroughly to the dark side, as he failed to realize that the way to prove he was a Jedi was to refuse to respond with violence to the issue.
- Canonically, this was the way that Morgan Kell truly won his duel with Yorinaga Kurita in BattleTech's history. Because both men were untouchable by conventional means due to pseudomystical abilities they shared, they were in turn the only two who could fight let alone defeat one another, but Morgan had no desire to kill Yorinaga as he understood that killing him would only perpetuate a Cycle of Revenge... so he sat there and tanked Yorinaga's attacks until Yorinaga overheated his 'Mech completely and shut down. Only then did Yorinaga recognize that Morgan had, in fact, defeated him without fighting.
- On a general note, many strategy guides — particularly unofficial ones — advise this strategy against a Hopeless Boss Fight in order to conserve resources — in which case you should not only sheathe your sword, but not do anything. This strategy falls apart if the player has to keep the party alive for a certain amount of time or number of rounds before the game's script allows for the loss to not count as a Game Over, however.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura
- In a side-quest where you have to remove interlopers from an elven Holy Ground, you have the option of goading them into attacking you so that a curse will kill them for shedding blood. But if you fight back (or if your Automatic Combat Mode is on) you are pretty much screwed by the same curse.
- You can order Virgil to hold position somewhere nearby so that he can't reach the fight until everyone is already dead; the Resurrection spell, however, can be cast at long distance. If he casts it on you before combat ends, the game over screen doesn't appear. Yes, you can end up cheating the peaceful elven hippie curse using a combo of preemptive violence and necromancy!
- More along the lines of "Hold your fire", in the levels Library, Depository, and Archives, the player is pitted against the Librarians, horrifically ugly ape-like mutants that even on the easiest difficulty have no problem killing the player in just a few hits. Before the player is actually comes face-to-face with these beasts, however, an oft-ignored or unheard bit of dialogue from one of Artyom's NPC comrades tells the player "Never let them out of your sight, show them your back, you'll die. If a beast gets nervous, move away, but slowly." These words ring true, if the player is confronted by a Librarian they can stand their ground without firing a shot, and so long as they slowly back away if the Librarian slinks in closer and do not turn to flee, the Librarian is most likely to turn away and disappear into another section of the Library. It is actually possible to get through the entirety of all three levels with this method, and in the higher difficulties (Ranger and Ranger Hardcore) it is almost essential to try this the majority of the time, as the Librarians not only soak up bullets like they're made of steel, but can also kill the player with just a few measly swipes, and ammunition is painfully scarce in either of these difficulties.
- Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy IV had Cecil go through this to cast off his dark past and become a Paladin. Considering the message that you got if you attacked ("A true paladin... will sheathe his sword."), this is probably the Trope Namer. The literal reason behind this working becomes a Guide Dang It moment in the US port of the SNES version. You win because you're fighting yourself, but still as a Dark Knight who keeps using its "Darkness" ability, which damages every unit at the cost of its own HP until it kills itself. However, in the US version you didn't have this when Cecil was still a Dark Knight, so you'd have no idea that he was losing health. Of course, with sufficient Level Grinding, you could get bigger healing potions that could restore all of your health at once, leaving you free to attack. With enough of these, you could whittle down the Dark Knight quite easily. Yes, you can defeat your inner darkness by beating the crap out of it!
- In the sequel Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, you can try this with Kain, but his dark side is a bit too powerful for it to work, kicking off the main plot thread of the Prologue.
- The Bonus Dungeon in the GBA remake also features a similar situation for Kain. After a few turns of defending, Dark!Kain turns into Lunar Bahamut, and then you can whale on him.
- The EU version of the PS1 remake, Final Fantasy Anthology, which holds both FF4 and FF5, has a hint appearing during Cecil's fight, outright saying "A TRUE PALADIN... WOULD SHEATHE HIS SWORD." And Cecil has the Dark-ability in that version too, but since it's highly flawed, most players don't realize that's the way to beat him.
- Final Fantasy V
- The game makes your party "fight" the Mimic by mimicking the Mimic mimicking you — i.e doing absolutely nothing. He would congratulate you, and yield if you did so for awhile. Of course, there's that Oxygen Meter in the corner to keep an eye on...
- Gogo can be beaten with proper tactics, but if you waste too much time reaching the boss and escaping, you'll drown — unless you simply use Teleport to escape once you've beaten Gogo.
- Final Fantasy IX also has Ozma, a bonus boss that can be defeated this way, by letting your characters counter attack, since inputting actions causes it to have an immediate turn.
- Final Fantasy Record Keeper, being what it is, also features the Dark Knight with an updated sprite in certain events. Unlike the original fight, he is far more easily beaten with brute force, and Darkness doesn't use his HP to cast, but this is still an option. Cecil will kill himself after twenty turns, and on the Elite difficulty version of the fight, this is the easiest way to beat him.
- In Final Fantasy XIII Snow's Eidolon, Shiva, cannot be defeated by attacks. The only way to win being to hold back and tank enough damage to impress it before times runs out and it kills the group.
- In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, getting the best ending requires that you do nothing, and let Lloyd and Marta defeat you at the end before being able to proceed.
- In The Darkness, you are required to combat a dark version of yourself, whom you defeat by putting your weapons away.
- The final boss in the Flash game Inquisitive Dave becomes aware of his "role" as a final boss and becomes stronger for it. Your refusal to fight him robs him of his purpose, and he eventually fades.
- The final duel in Suikoden II... providing that you have fulfilled a number of other requirements, the Best Ending requires you to never attack, but just block for a number of rounds. If you attack even once, you get a Bittersweet Ending. You also get one if you Sheathe Your Sword, but haven't met the other requirements.
- The Empathic Manifestation under Athkathla in Baldur's Gate II has to be defeated by not fighting him... Although in this particular case you have to actually HEAL him. Would be a case of Revive Kills Zombie if it weren't for the fact that it explicitly states feeding on hostility and hostile emotions (and so the implication goes that it was your kindness that beat him, not the healing per se).
- A secondary example from the same game are the "Shadow" enemies inside the Big Circus Tent. They roll to hit like any other enemy, but do no damage unless you've attacked them first (thus showing you believe they actually exist); they vanish in a puff of smoke when killed and grant no Experience Points or item drops whatsoever. The area also contains "Shadow Fiends" that look the same, but are able to damage you regardless; it's these that you must actually attack. The hint that you're given to distinguish between the two is for your character to "Close your eyes and only strike back if it hurts you".
- The dancing zombies in the fifth level of Monster Party for the NES. When you enter the room, they say "Watch us dance!" Do nothing but wait a moment, and you win.
- In a non-winning way, this is how Dororo's special ends in Keroro RPG.
- Prince of Persia
- In Prince of Persia, the Prince's mirror reflection would kill you if you tried to fight it, but if you sheathed your sword and walked into it, it would absorb into you. This was especially tricky since the Prince always put away his sword automatically after killing an enemy, and putting it away during combat was a move that was never necessary anywhere else and easily suicidal.
- Something similar happens in Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. When finally facing off against The Dark Prince, hitting him causes him to duplicate. The only way to win is to walk away from the fight.
- In the Mecha fight at the end of Escape from Monkey Island, both Guybrush's robot and LeChuck regenerate health too quick to be able to defeat each other, so the only way to win is by tying in the Monkey Kombat three times, so LeChuck gets tired and Elaine is able to escape.
- In the Knights of the Nine quest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you are given a test of character in which you are told you must show respect to nature. A huge bear appears and attacks you. To pass, you must not fight back.
- Which meant for many players who played the expansion after already having finished the main storyline, that they had to carefully select gear that does not reflect damage (as many of the better shields and armor items had this property) without sacrificing all defence to get maimed to quickly by the levelled bear.
- In Mysteries of the Sith, the expansion to Jedi Knight, the only way to defeat Kyle after his fall to The Dark Side is to deactivate your lightsaber and basically dare him to kill you. There's a helpful hint in the form of a wall carving of a female Jedi with her saber deactivated in front of her, something you wouldn't expect to find in a Sith temple.
- In Beyond the Beyond, you can do this when you face off against the Black Knight close to the end of the game. The Black Knight in question is really Annie's brother Percy, who was earlier presumed dead after fighting off a group of Imperial guards. If you decide not to attack him for several rounds, he'll run from the battle and rejoin your party. Should you decide to fight him anyway, his mask will crack, revealing his true face to the party before he dies.
- MOTHER 3 has a very, very tragic variation of this. The last battle with The Dragon comes only moments after the reveal that the said dragon is your long lost twin brother, who was kidnapped, forcibly turned into a robotic chimera, and brainwashed. During the battle, the knowledge of this leaves you unable to attack (later on you can try, but those attempts are pretty much you closing your eyes and half-heartedly swinging), so all you can do is defend and heal as you, your father, and the spirit of your dead mother tries to reach him. In the end, he regains his senses, but then turns his own attack on himself and dies in your arms.
- In fact, no final boss in the MOTHER series is ever defeated through attacking it directly, though MOTHER 3 is the only one in which you do nothing but defend. In the first game, you have to sing all the parts of the song that you'd been gathering throughout the game to remind Giegue of the people who raised him and to get him to surrender of his own will, and, in the second game, Paula has to use the up-to-then practically useless Pray command in order to allow the prayers of every other character in the game, plus the player themself, to overpower Giygas.
- In The Legend of Dragoon, the fight against the corpse of Lavitz in disc four. Defend enough and your party will talk him into turning his back, allowing you to take out the demon possessing him.
- Before that, there is the encounter with Shirley, who can only be "beaten" by answering her questions correctly. A common fan belief is her "fight" is to recover from the rather brutal encounter with Drake seconds earlier.
- Rise of the Triad has the first form of El Oscuro. Attacking him causes him to eat your missiles and regain energy. You're supposed to run away and let him wear himself out and revert to his snake form, which you chase down and kill. Except that every other challenge in this game essentially boiled down to shoot first, shoot later, shoot some more, and then when everyone's dead, try to ask a question or two, which made this a bit counterintuitive.
- Alone In The Dark 3 has Edward Carnby, soon after coming Back from the Dead, fight a version of himself dressed like a cowboy. He'll match you blow for blow and shot for shot, and the solution is to drop your weapons. He'll merge with you after that.
- Ikaruga has an optional variation on this. Your ship can absorb light or dark bullets (and flip freely between being able to absorb either.) The reason to do this is to build up power for your Beam Spam, but it's possible to make it through a whole level without firing a shot. In fact, if you can do precisely that and then survive each level boss's barrage of light and dark bullets without shooting back for 100 seconds, then the boss will just fly away and you'll be awarded the rank of 'Dot Eater!' Not to mention that you must survive against the final boss this way.
- In Persona 4, Shadows are the coalesced negative emotions and true feelings that people hide in their innermost hearts. When a Shadow manifests itself, it is typical for its creator to deny it, resulting in it absorbing power and turning into a monstrous abomination —cue the boss fight. But even after you and your teammates defeat it, the Shadow will just stand back up again and again until the character willfully stops fighting and accepts it as part of him/herself. Or apparently reject it so hard it disappears on its own, in Mitsuo's case.
- A literal case as the best way to survive the tail end of two boss fights. Shadow Rise will cast a spell when she hits half health, and Izanami will simply ignore every attack and skills you use when she runs out of health. This lasts for three turns each, and both will still attack while you can't touch them. The easiest way to stay alive is block with all characters, heal if necessary, and waited for the script to roll out Teddie obliterating the Shadow/Izanami-no-Okami.
- Lost Odyssey features a scene where the Big Bad mind-controls one of your party members to attack you. Killing him will end the game, so you have to hold out until the Big Bad decides to blast you himself and leave.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the player cannot damage The Sorrow — He's already dead! The only option is to wait for him to kill you, then use the Revival Pill. Getting as far as possible before being instant killed will net you some special camo, though.
- In Lunar: Dragon Song, the second stage of the Black Dragon fight features a dark doppelganger of the main character Jian, who will copy whatever the party does, only with cripplingly powerful spells. The easiest way to beat him is use the Namia monster card (poisons foe, and a move the fake can't copy), and just try and escape every turn (you can't run from story battles, but it spends a turn). Dark Jian will try to run, fail, and take poison damage. Rinse and repeat for a couple of dozen turns, and what would have been the second-hardest boss in the game suddenly becomes one of the easiest.
- In The Force Unleashed Jedi Temple Downloadable Content, when you face the Sith Warrior, at certain points he will transform into a duplicate of Starkiller. When he does this, you must block and/or avoid him until he changes back. If you attack him in this form, his health will be replenished and Starkiller will take the damage instead.
- The first time you fight Darkrai in Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, this is the strategy you should use to conserve resources and activate the Vatonage Styler.
- In Live A Live, choosing to fight the final boss's final form results in a Zero-Effort Boss fight, and the "bad" ending (where nothing happens except the credits roll). You have to choose to walk away from the fight for the real ending to occur.
- In BIT.TRIP FLUX, this message is to the player, from the player character in the ending. His journey is over, but yours isn't. Put down the controller and live your life.
- Super Smash Bros.
- In the original, the best way to defeat Pikachu is jump to the tower at the player's right and avoid all attacks, jumping if necessary. Sooner or later, regardless of difficulty, Pikachu will use agility and be rendered unable to jump, falling to his demise.
- In the sequel, it's possible to beat a level 9 Ness in a single 2 player stock match on Jungle Japes by... standing there. It works every single time.
- In Xenogears, during the Inevitable Tournament, you can get Alice's wedding dress from Dan during Fei's boss fight with him by constantly defending and healing instead of attacking. You can attack him too, but then you won't get the item.
- In Mortal Kombat 9, this is how Raiden defeats Shao Kahn. By letting Kahn merge Earth and Outworld without winning Mortal Kombat, Raiden is able to finally spur the Elder Gods into action, and use their power to destroy Kahn. "He must win!"
- The XBLA indie shooter Shoot 1UP features shields that form and expand around your ships when you refrain from shooting. Firing while an enemy is inside a shield unleashes a "shield attack," which earns you much higher bonuses than shooting around blindly. It's essential in order to rack up huge scores.
- In Pokémon Platinum, Cyrus warns you that Giratina's power will destroy the universe whether you defeat it or capture it to end its rage. Should you do either of these, it will be revealed that Cyrus was lying to demotivate you. However, it is possible to run away from the scripted battle with Giratina. Not only does this calm down Giratina just as well, but it upsets Cyrus, who hadn't considered walking away an option.
- The final battle of the second part of the ero-game Monster Girl Quest gives the player the option to do this after the last of the damage is inflicted to the target. Alice, who the player learns much earlier on is the Monster Lord, intended to commit Suicide by Cop in order to carry out her mother's wish of ending the conflict between monsters and humans. Once her HP is reduced to 0 in the fight against her, the player can choose to slay her with one final attack, which triggers a Non-Standard Game Over in which peace is achieved, in a sense. However, it's clear that Luka really doesn't want to kill her, and believes that her death in such a manner would be pointless anyway, given that her mother tried the exact same method before her. So, by not attacking for a few rounds once she's at 0 HP, Luka spares her life, and events come into play that set up the upcoming third and final part.
- ''Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising has this as a valid tactic for completing the normal campaign version of Two-Week Test. You simply do nothing except end your turn. Doing this showcases the AI's ability to screw itself over, but your rank will suck. The Hard Campaign averts this by giving you pre-deployed units.
- This is done in some Sonic the Hedgehog games. Well, to an extent.
- The Flying Battery Zone Act 1 Miniboss in Sonic 3 & Knuckles involves you just making him hit himself. Technically speaking, you did NOT attack him!
- As well as this, Lava Reef Zone Act 2 Boss. You just avoid falling in the lava or touching the bombs and eventually he will bomb himself to defeat.
- The Quartz Quadrant boss in Sonic the Hedgehog CD involves you just avoiding his attacks, running toward him and letting the treadmill scrape off the floor of his machine. For someone with an IQ of 300, Eggman isn't very smart...
- Averted in Sonic Advance 3. Egg Jack-in-the-Box, boss of Toy Kingdom Zone, slowly crawls toward one of the pits, and the way you defeat is by making them fall in the pit. But, if you let him approach the pit he is facing he'll simply slide back and forth in the arena for a while, and chances are that you will get hurt and killed in a blink. Or thrown into a pit.
- In Dawn of War: Winter Assault, the Imperial Guard Escort Mission requires that you follow a convoy very close to two enemy bases. While the convoy will last longer than most examples, being composed of a high-end Awesome Personnel Carrier and Space Marines, they will soon die to the relentless waves targeting it. One solution is to instantly switch over to the Eldar base: this greatly reduces the number of attacking units (and as the Eldar have teleporting builders and jump tanks, you can easily send support to the convoy with little risk), then switch back once the convoy is safe.
- Attacking Bibi Love in Dead Rising 2 will cause her to kill herself and the trapped survivors in her crowd with a bomb wired to the stage. The only way to settle this is to fulfill her demands.
- To get the good ending in Pom Gets Wi Fi, you must spare the Clipped Wing Angel Shibe. This is only possible if you make all the moral decisions prior to it, otherwise your character will attack for you.
- In Chapter 4's second half in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Doopliss will periodically stop you and force you into a battle where neither of you can hurt each other. Since no progress can be made at all on either side for this reason (unless the audience starts beaning you with rocks), the only option is to run away each time.
- The Stanley Parable: According to the second narrator in the "Museum" ending, the only true way to free Stanley from The Narrator and whatever else is controlling him is to stop playing the game.
- In Bust-A-Move 2 of the Bubble Bobble series, Packy can be easily defeated by putting down the controller and allowing her to fill up her side of the screen with bubbles.
- In Undertale, almost all encounters can be resolved through either fighting or granting mercy. Unlike most examples of this trope, however, the nonviolent option tends to require more effort than just not attacking, with some sort of action required to get the monster to stand down. Some encounters do result in a similar experience to the usual uses of this trope, though, such as the battle against Toriel, which is solved by repeatedly choosing the "Spare" option even though it initially doesn't seem to be doing anything, and trying to talk didn't help. There's also an inversion: in the Genocide route, the final boss, Sans, eventually recognizes that he's about to lose, and adopts this strategy in an attempt to make you give up. He takes a turn in which he doesn't attack, meaning his turn never ends and yours never starts, so you can't attack him... in theory, anyway.
- In Star Control II, you encounter a lone Shofixti pilot named Tanaka who is hellbent on trying to destroy your vessel in revenge for the loss of his entire species, as he believes you to be an Ur-Quan starship. The proper course of action is to converse with him, use the various insults the game offers, and then warp out of the fight to repeat the cycle until it dawns on him that Ur-Quan don't insult opponents that way, so you're actually trustworthy. If you screw up and kill him in the fight (which is even possible on accident, as his ship is badly damaged and could careen into a planet if things go south), his brother Katana appears to let you try again. Kill Katana and the Shofixti are Lost Forever as a recruitable race.
- In 8-Bit Theater, Red Mage is forced to face the embodiment of his Pride. After trying everything, he gives up, saying he cannot win, which causes Pride to disappear, since he showed humility. Red Mage concludes that his mind must be so brilliant it found a way to defeat its opponent subconsciously.
- In-universe example in Girl Genius, where Gil is fighting a "training clank" which counters every attack and learns from previous battles. Agatha shuts it down — by walking right up to it, figuring that it won't defend itself against someone who isn't attacking it.
- The Order of the Stick: In "A Battle of Attrition", a couple of dwarven clerics attacked by a Lizard Man monster would rather heal themselves of its attacks until it got fed up and left.
- The supervillain Vehemence of Grrl Power gains energy (and new superpowers) from any violence in the vicinity. Many members of the team argue against attacking him at all. Unfortunately, this doesn't work— Vehemence can feedback his powers with his own aggression, or Emotion Bomb others to goad them into attacking.
- There's also For Whom The Death Tolls, whom Sydney decides has the Nemesis power: he can perfectly counter any attack against him, but is completely impotent if no one attacks him at all.
- At one point in LARPs: The Series, the party has to get past a golem. They can't defeat it in combat, but when Noctus approaches it unarmed, it steps aside for him.
- When facing an Evil Twin made up purely of his aggression and negative emotions, Samurai Jack realized he could only win by not fighting and returning to true peace inside himself.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The normally unrestrained OMAC eventually manages to defeat the supervillain Shrapnel by using a force field to protect against Shrapnel's blows while refusing to counterattack — which meant that Shrapnel had no source of power to replenish himself with.
- Justice League Unlimited: Wonder Woman, Hawk, and Dove face an unstoppable magical robot that feeds on aggression. Dove beats it by... not fighting, or rather by getting analogues of North and South Korea to stop fighting. The next time the machine starts up, they remember and use it, but unfortunately, there has been a very Obvious Rule Patch.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Tree Trunks", Finn, Jake, and Tree Trunks find the Crystal Gem Apple but are confronted by a Crystal Guardian, who copies everything they do — and since it's a great deal harder than either Finn or Jake, they only manage to hurt themselves when they try to attack it. Tree Trunks, in the meantime, starts playing with some mildly disturbing skull-faced butterflies, and when the Crystal Guardian starts copying her as well, Finn and Jake realize that the Crystal Guardian will only attack them if they attack first.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)
- In the episode "The Ancient One", Leo is set to fight a losing battle against a group of demon ghosts, who can't be touched or harmed, but who can touch and kill him. Although Leo is initially reluctant to follow the titular Ancient One's advice and just give up, he eventually does so, which saves him, as the demons immediately cease their attack.
- In one episode of "Fast Forward", Darius Dunn and Cody Jones are battling each other in mechs and Cody is unable to take him head on due to Dunn's robot being much more powerful, so he shields himself and lets Darius attack him repeatedly until his power runs out, enabling Cody to counterattack and defeat him.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)
- The Turtles decide to fight a reactivated Technodrome by sitting down and doing nothing. The Technodrome ends up crashing itself.
- In another episode, when Splinter becomes a Brainwashed and Crazy pawn of the Rat King, the Turtles find themselves on the losing side of a Curb-Stomp Battle. Leonardo eventually decides to simply throw down his weapons and refuse to fight his sensei, hoping it will help him snap out of it. This was admittedly a risky gamble, but it worked.
- In Spongebob Squarepants, when Flats tries to beat up Spongebob, all of his blows are absorbed by Spongebob's body. Spongebob survives without a scratch, and Flats collapses from fatigue several hours later.
- The Boxing Episode of The Simpsons shows that Homer had an extra layer of fluid around his brain, allowing him to take more hits without being injured. Homer becomes a boxing champion who just waits until his opponents tire themselves out before KOing them. Unfortunately, when Homer tries fighting the heavyweight champion, his stamina is too much for Homer to deal with.
- Princess Celestia of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has only been shown to resort to violence twicenote in her 2000+ year lifetime, despite being a Physical Goddess (or indeed, probably because she's a Physical Goddess). This comes to a head in the season 4 premiere, where she refused to raise a hoof against her sister Luna even as Luna was consumed by her own jealous rage.
- In "The Cutie Remark", Princess Twilight is forced to do this with Starlight Glimmer as every time she fights, the timeline change gets worse and worse.
- One of the ancient Mandrin's tests in Iron Man: Armored Adventures calls for this. Forcing anyone seeking the ring to be overrun by an endless horde of statues, unless they do the wise thing and surrender.
- In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Troll", Wander and Sylvia are roped into helping the Baa-hallans defend their food supply from a troll. The creature starts out small, but grows larger and stronger as he riles up the Baa-hallans with his insults, until soon he's an unstoppable giant. But Wander just ignores him, and when everyone else follows suit he shrinks back to his original harmless size.
Religion and Mythology
- In Hindu mythology, one of the godly weapons known as the Narayanastra, when invoked, creates a rain of flaming arrows and discs that continuously pelts an enemy until they are destroyed. The more resistance the enemy puts up, the more force the weapon counters it with. The only way to survive it is to surrender to it.
- Taoism teaches the principle of 無爲 wu wei: doing by not doing.
- This is basically the premise behind the martial art of Aikido, both philosophically (if you fight, you will lose against someone, it's only a matter of time) and pragmatically (the techniques emphasize the fact that you should not fight the opponent i.e. oppose his intention/movement or try to struggle with him). YMMV whether this is a straight example of Sheathe Your Sword or an atypical approach towards, well, fighting.
- A lot of martial arts that are applicable towards self defense seem to recommend the Screw This, I'm Outta Here! school of self-defense: when confronted by (for instance) a mugger, you turn the hell around and run your ass off. The "martial" part of the martial arts regimen only comes into play when avoiding physical harm befalling you or the mugger is no longer an option.
- According to legend, the Chinese philosopher Laozi was never one to fight or argue, so when the border guard Yinxi demanded he record his wisdom for the good of the country before he would be permitted to pass, he simply said, "Eh, okay". He wrote for a month straight, eventually turning out the first draft of his masterpiece, the Tao Te Ching. (Or so the story goes.)
- Gandhi's resistance to the British empire. If the citizens had actively fought back against the empire (instead of resisting passively), they would have been violently suppressed by Britain's superior military, and the rest of the world would have thought it justified, since the soldiers were only defending themselves. This only worked because of the British Moral Dissonance not really registering how brutal their regime was until they had to enforce it on people who refused even token resistance. Gandhi himself admitted it wouldn't have worked on someone like the Nazis, who just didn't care.
- The U.S. Black civil rights movement of the '60s. Fighting would have given their enemies ammunition.
- There is a Zen parable where a samurai asks a master if there is an afterlife and what it is like. The master challenged him, saying what sort of question was that for a samurai, and what a worthless samurai would ask it. The furious samurai grabbed his sword and began to draw it, to which the master shouted, "Here open the gates of hell!" The shamed samurai, realizing his error, sheathed his weapon and asked for forgiveness to which the master whispered, "And here open the gates of heaven."
- Nuclear war can be said to be this: The minute one nuclear weapon launches, it triggers a retaliatory strike by everybody with nuclear weapons.
- Chief Joseph's famous "I will fight no more forever" speech. This is also an example of Know When to Fold 'Em since they had already lost the battle and half their people, and continuing the fight could very well lead to his own people's utter annihilation.