Sudden Death

A rule in sports games, Game Shows and Video Games where an end-of-match tie is broken by playing a special round. As Sudden Death is intended to bring a swift conclusion to the contest, the victory conditions for this final round are usually highly abbreviated - scoring just one or two points is often enough to achieve victory.

For an actual sudden death of a character, see Dropped a Bridge on Him. For Jean-Claude Van Damme film, see Sudden Death.


Anime and Manga
  • Used in Gundam Build Fighters Try, when the final round of the national tournament, between Team Try Fighters and Team Celestial Sphere, goes over the time limit. Each team then takes a three-minute break to select a representative (Sekai and Wilfred, respectively) and perform quick patchwork repairs on their Gunpla before the two representatives duke it out in a one-on-one duel. Sekai wins.


Live-Action TV
  • In one Numberwang sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look, after three days with nobody getting Numberwang, they go to Sudden Death, in which the first person to die from the deadly Numbergas wins.
    • The Quiz Broadcast (remain indoors) also has a sudden death round, wherein the third contestant, Unknown Male 282, promptly screams and drops dead, thus ending the round.
  • In more recent versions of Family Feud, in the rare event that neither team reaches 300 points by the end of the triple-score round, a Sudden Death round is played. Triple score is active, and only the #1 answer is on the board, for a question for which typically about 90 or more of the 100 surveyed gave the #1 answer; thus, the first to ring in and give said answer gets the 270+ points and will win the game.
  • Sudden Death is active in every round of Card Sharks should the round reach the last question and no one has finished their cards. The contestant who wins the question can choose to play (with the option of changing his/her card) or pass (the opponent must play and cannot change cards); whoever plays must complete their row and one mis-guess means the opponent automatically wins.
    • In the later part of the Eubanks era if both contestants won one game each, the "tiebreaker round" went from 3 questions to just 1 Sudden Death one; both contestants then got to see their base card but only the one who won the question got to determine who would play. The same above rules applied.
  • Whew! also had this with the "Longshot!" If a Charger thought he or she couldn't reach Level 6 of the board before time was up, he/she could yell "LONGSHOT!" This stopped the clock and brought the action to Level 6. The Blocker then got to place a "Secret Block" on Level 6 with one of three secret buttons (host Tom Kennedy reminded the Charger a previously placed Block might be up on Level 6 too). The Charger got one final chance to solve a blooper from Level 6—if he/she could find one AND solve it, the Charger won. If a Block was found or the blooper wasn't solved, the Blocker won.
  • Jeopardy!: During the show's various tournaments, if there is a tie after Final Jeopardy!, a single tiebreaker clue is played. The first player to buzz in with the correct response wins. If no one answers correctly, additional tiebreakers are used until someone does.
  • On Pyramid, ties were broken by playing another round of seven words. The team who caused the tie was given the choice of two letters, each of which would be the first letter of every correct response in the tiebreaker round. Originally, they were just played until one team finally outscored the other, but after many instances of both teams going 7/7 in tiebreaker rounds, it was changed in The '80s so that whichever team got their 7 words faster was declared the winner. (However, on at least one episode, they had to play three tiebreakers in the first half due to both teams only getting 6 words right on their first two attempts, while another had to do a double-tiebreaker due to both teams getting the seventh word in the first tiebreaker round on the buzzer.)
  • While it's extremely rare, ties have happened a few times on Wheel of Fortune. Originally on the nighttime version, ties were broken by a Speed-Up round played only between the two tied contestants, while the introduction of the Toss-Up puzzles in 2000 means that ties are now broken by a fourth Toss-Up puzzle between the tied contestants. Averted on the daytime version, where a tie meant that no Bonus Round was played and all three contestants returned the next day (and, if one of the contestants was a returning champion, the next episode would not count toward their three-game limit; according to one recollection, a daytime contestant in 1987 ended up playing five games due to two consecutive ties.)
  • On the Chuck Woolery-hosted era of Lingo, ties were broken by a seven-letter word being revealed one letter at a time until a team rang in with the right answer.
  • Taskmaster sometimes has a sudden death round if two contestants are tied in first place. So far, it has happened in two episodes. The first time it happened, the tie-break was decided by a pre-recorded game of hide and seek, and the winner was whoever completed the game the fastest. The second time saw the two tied contestants guessing another contestant's age in minutes, and whoever was the closest won.
  • From Series 2 onward on They Think It's All Over, games which finished level after the usual final round, "The Name Game", would proceed to a tiebreak which usually took the form of a Call Back to an earlier round. If the two team captains won equal numbers of episodes in a series, they would also play a tiebreak for the series. Examples included musical chairs, mechanical bull-riding, breath holding, answering trivia questions (from books allegedly written by the team captains), and launching football boots at cardboard cutouts of David Beckham.

Professional Wrestling
  • AAA's The Lucha Libre World Cup of 2015 had seven matches on the card with one special sudden death match for third place. Due to multiple time limit draws, there ended up being seven sudden death matches and not because there was one for every match so much as the only planned sudden death match itself went into sudden death and the final went into sudden death three times.

  • More examples of "sudden death" in sports can be found in The Other Wiki article here.
  • In Association Football, if the game is tied at the end of regulation time and there must be a winner (e.g. during a tournament), either the game goes to penalty kicks or there are overtime periods first. The rules may state that the first team to score a goal during the overtime wins the game: this is called sudden death, or (to be more politically correct) "sudden victory" or "Golden goal".
    • It should be noted that FIFA has abolished the Golden Goal rule in all sponsored competitions. No major tournaments anywhere decide tie games in this fashion anymore. The chief problem was that the rule had led to very defensive play.
    • For games which require a winner, the "Silver Goal" is used, which means a full 30 minutes of play occurs, so a team which gives up a goal has the possibility of pulling even again. If the game is tied at the end of the extra period, penalty kicks are used.
  • In American professional football (the NFL), if the teams are tied at the end of the game they go into overtime, where the first team to score points wins.
    • The NFL adopted new overtime rules for postseason games starting in 2010 (extended to regular season games for the 2012 season). If a team receives the opening kickoff and only scores a field goal, the game doesn't end until after the ensuing drive. A touchdown ends the game on the first possession, as does a safety. The game ends on the second possession with any result that is not still a tie. If the game is still tied after the first two possessions (either due to no scoring or matched field goals), the game reverts to sudden death. This rule was first used in the playoff game on Jan. 8, 2012 between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos, in which Denver scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass-and-run on the first play in overtime, meaning it took longer to announce the new overtime rules than to play it.
    • The first regular-season game under these rules in the regular season was played in week one of the 2012 season. The Minnesota Vikings made the first score on a field goal. The Jacksonville Jaguars then got possession but were unable to convert a fourth down, making this the first NFL overtime game to end on a play that didn't result in a score. Two weeks later, the Tennessee Titans scored a field goal first. Then the Detroit Lions failed to convert a fourth down on a play in which they were actually trying to draw the Titans offside, thus ending that game on a play that didn't result in a score. As of the 10th week of the 2012 season, there hadn't yet been an overtime game in which the team with the first possession scored a field goal and the other team responded with a score of its own (either a tying field goal to extend the overtime or a touchdown to win it).
    • The idea of a second chance comes from other leagues. Instead of a kickoff format, high school, NCAA, and CFL football games use what's called the "Kansas Playoff," where after a coin toss to decide possession, a team starts a drive directly from a designated position in the opposing side of the field. In the Kansas format, each team gets a chance to score. A touchdown, field goal, or turnover ends that possession, allowing the other team to try from the other end (If a turnover directly results in a touchdown, the game ends there). The process repeats if both teams match scores for that round. After two rounds, the point-after kick is removed, forcing teams to attempt the riskier two-point conversion instead.
  • If the score is tied after sixty minutes of regulation play during the regular season, the NHL uses a five-minute sudden-death overtime period with four-on-four hockey (normally it's five-on-five, not counting goalies); should it still be tied teams go to a shootout (before 2005 it was just left as a tie). In the playoffs, though, teams skate five a side for an unlimited number of twenty-minute periods until someone scores, which can take a while (the record is six).
  • In tennis, the U.S. Open between 1970 and 1974 implemented a sudden-death tie-breaker in which the first player to reach five points won the set. Since then, the U.S. Open and most other associations have used a "lingering death" tie-breaker in which at least a two-point lead is needed to win. Note that many tournaments won't use the tiebreaker for the final set, requiring a clear winner by at least two games.

Tabletop Games
  • In the Pokemon Trading Card Game, sudden death is played with only one prize card, so whoever grabs the prize card first wins.

Video Games
  • In Team Fortress 2, if a round ends with neither side winning, servers have the option of then going to Sudden Death, where all health packs are removed from the level and respawning is disabled. Teams can win either by accomplishing the objective or eliminating the other team.
  • In the Super Smash Bros. series, in the event of a tie, rankings are decided by a round in which everybody has 300% damage. Last one to get knocked off the stage wins. If a Sudden Death match goes on for too long, Bob-ombs start raining from the sky. If by some freak occurrence another tie manages to occur, the player with the lower controller port number is declared the winner.
  • Worms has this, which can manifest in a few ways, depending on the selected options. Poison, set Hit Points to 1, no change to hit points. Usually including the water rising.
  • In the Swordplay duels of Wii Sports Resort, if neither combatant wins best of three, it goes to "Sudden Death" where the arena is reduced to the center circle, and one good hit can easily knock the opponent off. Interestingly, even this can be tied, awarding the player with an Achievement ("Stamp") for the round.
  • Boss battles in Guitar Hero used to initiate a "death drain" that would sap your Rock Meter if both combatants made it to the last part of the song. This was later replaced and now the song just repeats, but on Hyperspeed. And it gets faster each time both players make it to the end.
  • In Halo games, Sudden Death only started from the second game onwards. It typically only occurs in objective gametypes like CTF or Assault. In Halo 2, when the time would run out, if a player was still holding the flag or bomb, the game would continue endlessly until a player scored or if no one was holding the flag or bomb for a set amount of time. After some time, Bungie released an update that removed Sudden Death from certain gametypes on Matchmaking because players were holding up games by hiding during Sudden Death. In Halo 3 and onwards, Sudden Death usually has a time-limit (typically from 30 seconds to one minute), but the game still ends if the flag/bomb isn't being held.
  • "Last Man Standing" in Max Payne 3. If you get downed, but still have painkillers, the game goes into Bullet Time and you get one last chance to shoot the mook before he finishes you off.