Well, thanks for the entertainment...pretty good warm-up there.When you drain a boss's health bar and knock their HP down to 0, they're supposed to be dead, right? After all, that's what happens to you! Unless... Well, unfortunately, some bosses don't play by these rules. Murder them in battle, and they'll just stand up again in a cutscene and say "Wow, that was a fun fight! I haven't had this much fun in years!" (And even worse, you're staggering or already collapsed regardless.) Other times, they will be visibly weakened, but will still be alive enough to say "I Have Underestimated You, You Are A Worthy Opponent, This Is Not The End, We Will Meet Again, Villain: Exit, Stage Left!!" Yet other times, they will be mortally wounded... but they'll somehow have enough strength left to give a 40-minute monologue as they die. Any of these situations can look really ridiculous if the enemy flashed away or exploded at the end of the in-game battle. And still other times, they'll stand back up and proceed to slaughter you; often this is used as a variant on a Hopeless Boss Fight. Occasionally this happens when the devs miscalculate the difficulty of the Final Boss Preview and have only created content for the defeat you were supposed to suffer. Either way, it's clear that The Battle Didn't Count, because somehow, the boss is still alive and kicking. The Quirky Miniboss Squad is especially prone to this behavior. A type of Story Overwrite, which is a type of Gameplay and Story Segregation. This is often a result of the fact that You Can't Thwart Stage One.
— Yuuki Terumi, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift
open/close all foldersVideo Game Examples
- You will fight Cave Story's beloved toaster-shaped mini-boss Balrog many times, and he will usually fly away afterwards, looking suitably upset but otherwise no worse for the wear. At one point, he will easily toss a gigantic boulder across the room immediately after being thoroughly trounced by you. The game evokes this trope at several other points as well.
- One notable example of a justified The Battle Didn't Count is the island's core-once you've beaten it, Misery and the Doctor show up and rant at you about how abysmally stupid you are to have destroyed the floating island's Master Emerald-equivalent. Then they haul it off to the Doctor's lab, where he works out a way to keep it nominally alive so the island won't crash out of the skies.
- In Iji the Komoto Assassins have the ability to teleport around. If you damage them to the point where they drop loot and disappear, you didn't really kill them, you just made them teleport away to recover. This is mainly so you don't have to feel bad on a pacifist run.
- Justified in the Metroid Prime Trilogy with Dark Samus. Winning each boss fight causes her to explode into sparkly Phazon particles. But without a way to atomize every single one of those particles, there's no way to prevent Dark Samus from regenerating back to full strength.
- Prince of Persia (2008). You have to face four of the bosses FIVE TIMES each, before finally defeating them in their lairs, at which point they become Load Bearing Bosses.
- Star Wars video games are prone to this sometimes, particularly with recreations of the duel between Luke and Vader from The Empire Strikes Back. No matter how much damage the player does to Vader, he's still going to chop Luke's hand off. Nicely adverted in the PSP version of The Force Unleashed, which simply swapped around who was the Player Character and who was the boss.
- How about the main Force Unleashed game itself?
- In one level of Jedi Outcast, Luke and Desann get into a fight. Since the fight is randomly generated with both characters having X number of hitpoints, on occasion Luke loses and dies if Desann gets a few lucky shots in. Unsurprisingly, this has no actual effect on the game.
- Also notable is the boss battle against Tavion. Within the game's mechanics, it is entirely possible to end a fight by slicing your opponent limb from limb. This doesn't stop her from getting away afterwards, though.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild subverts this with Master Kohga. You deplete his health and he subsequently has a This Cannot Be! moment. He then summons a massive spiky ball to kill Link, only for said ball to roll back and get Kohga to accidentally walk back into the deep pit in center of the arena, with the ball following him right after.
- Assassin's Creed I: Although the deaths of the Templar are ultimately fatal, the fact that they were stabbed through the throat (despite their actual manner of death) does not seem to prevent a rather lengthy Final Speech detailing their motivations first.
- Not to mention that the entire dialogue takes place seemingly out-of-time.
- Somewhat justified in that gameplay represents using the Animus to access the memories of Desmond's ancestors, and thus, the Cutscene Drop could signify a transition into the memory of what "actually happened".
- Many, many, many times in El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. It is, in fact, possible to beat the fallen Grigori every time; at least get the fight to where you knock their armor off. Their comments after the fight change depending on how you do.
- This is actually necessary for a couple of boss fights in Enter the Matrix, such as a sparring fight against Trinity and a non-hostile Secret Test fight against Seraph. The amusing part is that the fighting system, while appropriate for the rest of the game, ends up looking ridiculously brutal for a friendly sparring match. It gets all the more absurd when you have the unlockable katana, which has quite a few brutal slashing and impalement animations.
- In Legacy of Kain: Defiance, Raziel has to battle Janos Adron possessed by the Hylden Lord. After defeating him The Hylden Lord's control over Janos temporarily fails. Janos begs Raziel to kill hem, but he can't bring himself to do it. Then the Hylden Lord takes control over Janos again and has enough strength to destroy Raziel's physical form.
- In the .hack//G.U. Games, during some of the Arena battles, the game will always follow a particular script, regardless of your performance in the fight. You can overwhelm some of the enemies, but the cutscenes will always show Haseo barely holding on while his adversary effortlessly wipes the floor with him. You can chop your adversary's HP down in less than a minute, and the game will still show your adversary gloating over your poor performance.
- Happens very frequently in Odin Sphere.
- Many of the bosses in the game are fought by most of the five playable characters. Naturally, this means that these bosses have to survive being "killed" by the player several times. In most cases, the character who fights the boss the last time chronologically does end up killing him or her ( One notable exception is Odin. Mercedes is the last character to fight him, but instead of killing him, she destroys his weapon).
- Several times, you fight other playable characters as bosses. Since all of them are alive for the climax, they obviously survive getting defeated by you.
- At the end of the game, you must choose which of your characters will fight which of the five final bosses. Choosing the wrong boss for a character will result in a Heads I Win, Tails You Lose scenario after you deplete the boss' health bar. It's especially bad in Onyx's case, as all the other bosses can be killed even if the character dies as well and Gallon explicitly states that only someone with Odette's power and his blood can break the undead curse that keeps him immortal, but Onyx is completely fine against all but Mercedes.
- In Solatorobo, the first battle versus Nero and Blanck outside their robots. After getting them to half health, they just say they're tired of playing around and just shoot a huge, undodgeable fireball at you.
- In Dead Rising, you have several fights that don't count with Carlito before that character is finally Killed Off for Real by another boss psycho.
- The trio of convicts that commandeered an army jeep also seem to adhere to this for every battle you have with them. They're in the center of a massive courtyard of zombies, and even if you blast them multiple times with a shotgun point blank, then wreck their jeep (and steal the mounted fifty calibre machinegun) they'll respawn later. And the jeep will be fine. And the gun will be back.
- The SNES game The Death and Return of Superman does this with the battle against Doomsday, who killed Superman in the "Death of Superman" arc of the DC Universe continuity. Even if you defeat him, he'll simply get up again and proceed to kill him. Likewise, due to it following the comic story, even though you have to defeat the Cyborg-Superman as both the Eradicator and later Superboy, after you deplete his health he automatically gets back up and defeats you.
- In Double Dragon Neon, the villain Skullmaggedon flees battle two times, one by jumping off the window of his spaceship in space, and second time by escaping into another dimension.
- Endemic in Senran Kagura, where opponents will frequently insist they weren't really trying or that the opponent's attacks were doing nothing, despite heavy evidence to the contrary (this being a setting where, fanservice aside, Clothing Damage is blatantly symbolic of actual wounds). There's a reason for it, though; even "good" shinobi are bound by a code of conduct that put the mission above one's own life. Retreating from a fight they were committed to is grounds for execution. This is finally averted in Estival Versus, which has a single storyline with the player always in control of the eventual victor.
- There are several bosses in Zeno Clash who will get back up and one hit kill you, after you reduce their HP to 0. At least the same thing happens if you lose, avoiding the even more annoying Heads I Win, Tails You Lose trope.
- Baten Kaitos Kalas fights Giacomo, Folon and Alyn at one point, and Giacomo uses a device to cut off the guardian spirit's influence (somehow this doesn't affect the battle at all.) and the party beat the three down. As in, lying on the floor not moving. In the battle scene at least. The cutscene then followed up has them standing up, and the device breaks, and the party fight them again. Full health, full power for them. Party? ......Not so much.
- Averted in Chrono Trigger. When fighting Lavos in the Ocean Palace, his first attack is meant to wipe out the entire party instantly. But if you are on such an immensely high level that you can actually beat him (you'll likely have to do a New Game+ multiple times to get that strong), it results in you winning the game and getting a special ending.
- Although rather than showing the effects this would have on the timeline, it just gives you a Developer's Room to explore. Rather disappointing, really.
- Also played straight a few times. For example, when you barge into Queen Zeal's room, Dalton summons the Golem to finish you off. If you are defeated, you get captured and the prophet sends you back through the portal. If you defeat the Golem, Dalton comes back and imprisons you anyway, then the prophet sends you back through the portal.
- Every time you defeat Spekkio, he gives you a reward, heals you, and sends you on your way, but is ready for another battle the next time you come around. Also inverted in that, if you lose, there is no Game Over; you're simply restored on the spot, and can challenge him again.
- When you defeat Magus in his castle, he does not die. Rather, he gets sucked into a time portal with you and your party, only to reappear later in the game, ready for another battle.
- Although not a conventional battle, Crono's trial is a good example of this. Regardless of whether Crono is declared innocent or guilty of kidnapping Marle at his trial (which is dependent on what he says, and what he did at the Millenial Fair), he is thrown into prison, and the Chancellor attempts to have him executed. Though this is a semi aversion, being pronounced guilty gets you a death sentence, however getting innocent gives you a much lighter three days of imprisonment instead... it's just that the Chancellor has it out for you and tells the guards that it's an execution so the end result is the same.
- Chrono Cross plays it straight. After the body swap you're matched up against your old allies in three-to-one odds, and in the first playthrough they are going to kick your ass, period. But in a New Game+, you can win... yet Kid will somehow manage to get up and stab you anyway.
- In Digimon World 3, Bulbmon is a boss character which is extremely hard to hit. Yet when one finally whittles down his health and is about to deal the killing blow, he flees, netting you no experience or other rewards. Of course, you must fight him again later, when he's even harder.
- Final Fantasy has a long tradition of bosses who refuse to admit defeat:
- Scarcely less galling is Golbez in Final Fantasy IV, who does this at least twice. The first is a Cutscene Power to the Max battle, but the second is a fair-and-square, player-controlled battle. Though the heroes don't exactly help their cause afterwards, as they simply stand by and watch as Golbez morphs into a severed hand and sloooowly crawls over to the at-stake Crystal.
- Kefka in Final Fantasy VI does this at least twice, as well as having a One-Winged Angel version in his final battle.
- The Turks in Final Fantasy VII will always have the power to run away no matter how soundly you supposedly beat them.
- Rufus pulls the same stunt when Cloud fights him, though he is only fought once.
- Crisis Core. Zack's not good at killing important people. Of course, this is because it's a Foregone Conclusion that anyone important survives.
- Final Fantasy VIII's Quirky Miniboss Squad(s) Biggs and Wedge and Fujin and Raijin don't mind being beaten either. Seifer, on the other hand, is left face down on the floor on several occasions but never quite dies; the player may conclude that this is mostly Squall not quite having the heart to finish him off.
- Defeating Edea at the end of Disc One in Final Fantasy VIII leads to a cutscene of Edea stabbing Squall — JUST Squall — through the shoulder with an icicle before the entire party is captured offscreen and thrown in prison, which also happens if you lose the fight. This makes the fight meaningless, as far as the story's concerned. In a rewarding bit of Fridge Brilliance, when you later control Edea you will find the ice attack is her Desperation Attack. Which implies that your team successfully did enough damage to Edea to nearly kill her before they were defeated.
- Seymour X from Final Fantasy X, who actually "died" thrice and still managed to carry on. Seymour, at least, justifies the first occasion: In Spira, just because someone is dead doesn't mean they aren't still walking around in some form. Most of the random encounters in the game are the "unsent" souls of the dead in physical form and one of the party members is Dead All Along too.
- In one mission in Final Fantasy XI, you get to fight with Professor Shantotto. Win, and "Shantotto" will turn into a doll, only for the real Shantotto to reveal that you'd been fighting with a doll she magic'd into life.
- She pulls the same trick in Dissidia: Final Fantasy; when she loses, she turns into a doll, rather than just collapsing like the other characters. Her death quotes range from giving the opponent a B-, to the doll talking in a Creepy Monotone before turning back. However as it is her loss animation, the battle does count... the ONE time she's fought in story mode. All other fights with her are Muliplayer or Arcade matches which are equally meaningless to the story line.
- This comes around again in her cameo in Final Fantasy XIV. The event-specific FATE "Tower of Power" has you fighting a titanic Shantotto. When you finally defeat her, and bring word back to the Order of the Twin Adder, the gigantic Shantotto returns, and reveals that the goliath you fought was yet another magical doll under her command. You then get (a shrunken version of) that doll as a minion. Within the same game, the fight against Gaius at the end of 2.0 has him running away when his HP is down to 25%
- Averted in Final Fantasy XII: if a boss needs to run away, they'll do so with a good margin of HP left.
- Caius in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Multiple times. For once this is explained in terms of both story and game mechanics: the Heart of Chaos gives him immortality, represented in battle by a constant 'auto-raise' effect. Interestingly, the player can repeat these battles using the Paradox Scope to break reality and avert the trope for some alternate endings.
- Played straight with the final boss of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Bhunivelze. The epic final battle with the player controlling Lightning doesn't really seem to bother him at all, as it later takes the combined might of Hope's full ATB skill, a knife to the head, a blast of magic from the Eidolons and the combined might of every human soul to finally put him down for good.
- Ditto with some bosses in Final Fantasy Tactics A2, except they will run away after their HP hits zero.
- Final Fantasy Tactics Inverts this trope with Guest characters. Guest characters cannot be killed like normal units in battle. If their HP hits zero they simply lie unconscious for the remainder of battle until they are revived or until the battle ends. Once they join your team, however, they can be Killed Off for Real. Played straight in a number of 'kill the leader' battles where even if you manage to kill the boss, they will immediately get back up and teleport away to safety.
- In Grandia, this trope is used so often with so many characters that you will spend most of the final cutscene waiting for the Big Bad to get back on its feet again after trouncing it only twice. Particularly egregious examples are Nani, Saki, and Mio, as well as Baal.
- Kingdom Hearts:
- Kingdom Hearts II: Sephiroth. After losing to Sora in a one-on-one battle, he compliments Sora on his skill in wielding the Keyblade, but says that Cloud is the only one that could "eliminate him" and tells Sora to find Cloud so they could settle their feud. After Sora does this, a cutscene ensues that ends in Cloud and Sephiroth disappearing to parts unknown, still locked in battle.
- Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days 358/2 Days: The last boss is a fight against Riku that the game expects you to win, but the story dictates that he brings Roxas to Naminé so Kingdom Hearts II can happen. Due to this, the cutscene after shows him getting up and using the power of Darkness to overcome Roxas after losing the initial fight.
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep: So Terra managed to beat up Master Xehanort and everything's fine and dandy right? The following cutscene has him committing Grand Theft Me on Terra and leading onto the true final fight of Terra's story. That said, Xehanort is losing the fight in said cutscene before possessing Terra, so the fight's outcome wasn't completely ignored.
- Both Knights of the Old Republic games involve this as a Final Boss Preview, with Darths Malak and Sion respectively. The fight against Sion is awesome; the one against Malak isn't. In Sion's case it's justified, he's using the Force to hold his body together in spite all of the damage he takes. Earlier in the game being on an exploding starship failed to kill him, so naturally you can't either.
- And when you kill Kreia the first time she just gets back up and gets a bunch of flying lightsabers to kill you with.
- Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, in the first battle against Gades. You win, but he blasts you anyway. Then again, you're really not supposed to win, unless you've grinded an unholy amount. In fact he's actually stronger than in the rematch were you're supposed to beat him. He drops a nifty weapon, though, so it's in your best interests to try.
- If you're powerful enough to not realize immediately that you're supposed to lose, you get to enjoy the experience of burning through your entire inventory of consumable items to drag the fight on as long as possible, resetting the game when you realize it was this trope so that you didn't just lose your entire inventory for nothing, and then trudging from the last save point to offer yourself up to be killed again.
- Lufia: The Legend Returns has several similar fights (once again this includes Gades, but also multiple fights with Daos), in which you're expected to lose, but if you do win, you get a powerful piece of equipment and then get blasted in a cutscene.
- When Gades attacks Parcelyte in Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, you kick his ass...at which point he gets up, proceeds to wreck the city, and gets back into the battle. Once you beat him again, he warps off, with Maxim realizing that Gades was Just Toying with Them.
- This happens to Mega Man Battle Network's MegaMan.EXE all the time. Bosses visibly explode when he defeats them, but only on the battle screen; they'll still be in the cutscene afterwards. Sometimes they'll be exploding again at this point, lasting just long enough to deliver a final line. Other times, they'll be damaged but not out of action — because You Can't Thwart Stage One, or because the boss will be an ally later, or because ProtoMan is going to show up and save MegaMan from a last-ditch attack.
- In MOTHER 3, the Masked Man and Fassad will both fly away after the first time you beat them in a fight.
- Used in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door; when you beat Cortez, he immediately comes back, pointing out that he's a ghost and you can't kill him. He then hands over the star anyway and lets you use his ship.
- Well, he thought you wanted the whole treasure. He never much liked the star anyway, and if you'd only told him that was all you were after he probably wouldn't have put up a fight to begin with. The whole thing is a measured attempt to make everyone involved feel foolish.
- Parasite Eve has you fight Eve a total of five times with each battle ending in Eve trying to convince Aya to join her side. It's not until your last fight with her in her final form that she actually dies and stays dead for good. Unfortunately, you still have to deal with her offspring.
- Parasite Eve 2 has the Ax-Crazy humanoid golem called No. 9 whom you fight twice. In the first fight, he simply runs away after taking a beating. In the second encounter, Aya's powers go out of control and she winds up frying him alive, but he comes back later on fully recovered. No. 9 is finally killed off in a cutscene by the creature he was trying to release.
- The final boss of Skies of Arcadia does this twice.
- An amusing example occurs in Suikoden II where you fight Captain Rowd. It's really unlikely that you beat him (it would take a lot of Level Grinding and it's so early in the game there's very limited opportunity to do it); but if you do; you get a very short cutscene where he steps back in disbelief; and then calls on about 50 soldiers to all dogpile you to get the plot back on the rails.
- Very common in the Tales series. In fact, it's easier to count the times when The Dragon, the Big Bad or the members of the Quirky Miniboss Squad don't do this. Particularly egregious examples include Rodyle in Tales of Symphonia, who has enough energy to lumber across the room over to a self-destruct mechanism and activate it, unopposed by the party, and Kratos' second fight (also Symphonia), who post-battle summons about three mooks and promptly takes the party captive without so much of a sword lifted to oppose him.
- Hasta from Tales of Innocence does it twice. The first time, he seems to be down... then he surprise-stabs Ruca and jumps into a volcano. Think he's dead? He later shows up in a battlezone, where you beat him down again... after which he gets up and leaps over a fortress wall to escape, not even bothering with the trickery. The third time, at the end of the game, he finally goes down for good.
- Subverted in Tales of Hearts. Shing challenges The Rival Chalcedny for a MacGuffin early in the game. You aren't supposed to win this one, and the party normally collects the MacGuffin while attending to business in the next town. However, if you do manage to beat him, he hands it over immediately, and the next town goes as normal except you don't have to collect it.
- Also subverted in the original PSX version of Tales of Destiny. If you win the first boss fight against Leon (he's supposed to arrest you for the plot to continue), you get a Non Standard Game Over where Rutee becomes proud enough of her abilities to go on some zany adventures unrelated to the main plot.
- In Vampires Dawn you're supposed to lose your first fight against Abraxas. Since the game has a New Game+ feature, it's possible to win the fight, but the game proceeds just as if you had lost.
- The Wild ARMs games have so many Quirky Miniboss Squads and Goldfish Poop Gangs that when you fight a human enemy, you can almost guarantee they'll get back up when they're done. Interestingly, you will generally get experience from all of these fights, but you'll only get gold and (sometimes) items from the one in which you finally do the bad guy in. The only exception is the fourth game, where instead of fighting the same group over and over again, you simply fight each member of a much larger group exactly once.
- An interesting inversion occurs in the bonus chapter of The World Ends with You: Any time the player loses a match of Tin Pin Slammer, his opponent will usually allow the player to try again with no penalty. If this happens during the tournament at Molco, even Neku is surprised when the tournament's sponsor signs him up for another attempt.
- There's also these battles between Reaper Beat and Taboo Minamimoto. After battle, you'll be shoved a scene about how powerful they are and you can't really beat them. Even after you just handed their asses back to them.
- The Xenosaga franchise has plenty. Granted, often they're done by A God Am I characters, or ones that have Ascended to a higher plane of existence. Still pretty funny seeing them reel in pain one instant then stand up and give you a speech about how it was all futile the next.
Fan Made Modules
- One community-created Neverwinter Nights module, entitled Dastard's Morrow: Maiden Voyage, contains a boss who can't be killed so long as she has a charged magic urn (all of which get recharged every few moments by the artifact you are trying to recover). You either need to get the artifact (which requires a will save) or smash all the urns (which are rather tough) to finish her and then you have to find the secret door and destroy her at the final urn behind the wall to actually kill her
- You can't actually kill Vico if you choose to fight him in the dwarven inn in the Neverwinter Nights module A Dance with Rogues. He becomes invincible as soon as he has 1hp left and you have to fight him in the Drow arena anyway. Though at the end of that one you get to decide if you kill him there (and get lots of evil alignment points) or let him live, in which case you have to fight him later in the tunnels anyway.
- In multiple character's story mode endings in BlazBlue, defeating v-13 is followed immediately by dying (or worse) to Cutscene Power to the Max v-13. When you defeat Terumi in Arcade mode, he writes it off as just a warmup.
- Chronophantasma also abuses this to a DISGUSTING degree, especially when Azrael is involved.
- Seen in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 1 and 2's Story Modes. The only way to advance the plot is to win every fight, even if the ensuing cutscene shows that you lost the fight miserably. Partially averted when you manage to beat unbeatable opponents; fully averted in Budokai Tenkaichi 3, where you are simply assigned to use whoever is supposed to win.
- In fact, Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is pretty generous when averting this. Granted, when playing in a fight you're expected to lose, the odds will be stacked against you in gameplay to reflect that (you deal less damage when fighting some characters who are "too powerful" in the story, even sometimes zero damage if they want to ensure you won't win [on occasion, not win yet]), but play carefully and you can end up winning with a character who is canonically "too weak" to ever match up. This can result in something like Tenshinhan defeating Nappa before Chiaotzu can sacrifice himself, Roshi defeating Broly, or even having Hercule defeat Kid Buu! They even give you a cutscene with that victory, to boot!
- In Dragon Ball: Advance Adventure, when Goku fights Tao Pai Pai and Piccolo for the first time, he's severely weakened and supposed to lose. If you win, you lose control, the enemy stands up and knocks out a massively cutscene incompetent Goku. At least you won't get a "You Lose" message. Against Jackie Chun, however, you're required to win.
- In Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi, the first fight against Omega Shenron is supposed to be a Hopeless Boss Fight. He's got a ton of health and hits like a ton of bricks. However, for whatever reason they decided to make it possible to beat him (possibly due to gameplay limitations, or maybe just laziness). The following scene still plays out the same way regardless of if he curbstomped you or vice-versa.
- Ditto Dragon Ball Z Hyper Dimension, where fights are meant to be hopeless, but in reality taking down the likes of Freeza with Piccolo isn't even particularly hard. The game will acknowledge the win with a single changed line of dialogue where the defeated enemy says he's going to win anyway, then move on as if you lost.
- This gets pulled a lot during the final route of Duel Savior Destiny. For example, you're clearing supposed to fail against Shezar in a Duel Boss fight against him. You're even using a character you have never had access to in any route before this and who rarely even appeared. Even if you win, he just reveals you beat a double, beats you up anyway and forces you to beat him with the 'right' character after that.
- In a similar vein to the above example, fittingly enough, Guilty Gear has a few examples of this whenever a "relatively normal" (note the quotation marks) character takes on the likes of, say, Sol Badguy, Bedman or Slayer. Many characters who manage to "defeat" Sol in a fight, for instance, will note afterwards that he was holding back his full power tremendously, partly because he'd destroy the entire area if he went all-out, and partly because he's a bit of a lazy ass, even when it comes to fighting. In Slayer's case, his defeat pose doesn't even consist of him being knocked out like everyone, he just lays on the ground in pose that indicates less that he lost and more that he's done fighting.
- The fight against Sindel in Mortal Kombat 9 could be a textbook example, to the point one may Wonder why the game even bothered giving you the opportunity to fight her. Even if you completely and utterly wreck her without taking a single hit, as soon as the next cutscene happens, she'll be back to mopping the floor with our heroes, thus cementing her newfound The Scrappy status among fans of the series.
- Galleom in Super Smash Bros. Brawl does this twice in a row.
- In the original WWE Day of Reckoning video game for the Nintendo GameCube, your character is put in a match with either Ric Flair or the Big Show at the end of his stint on Sunday Night Heat, to prepare you to move to Raw (Flair) or Smackdown (Big Show). This match is incredibly difficult to win — the AI will counter nearly every move you make, and has far more impactful moves than you do — but it can be done. The ensuing cutscene, however, will play out exactly the same as if you'd gotten your ass handed to you (which was clearly the developers' intent for the match).
First Person Shooter
- The fight with Meta Ridley down the shaft in Metroid Prime 3 uses this. Right before the after battle cutscene kicks in, you can see Ridley's life bar has a sliver left.
- Of course, when you fight him again his name has changed to Omega Ridley and his appearance is different, implying you did kill him and the pirates just revived him with Phazon. Ridley getting resurrected is a little out of the ordinary for the Metroid series, but it could happen.
- Dark Samus in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes games does this a few times. No matter how much you kick her ass in the 2nd game, she's always able to get away and recover. First, she explodes. Then, she falls out of a several-mile-high window. Then, she gets trapped inside a collapsing dimension with Samus taking the only visible way out at the last second. Dead? What are you talking about?
- The in-universe justification for this apparently goes beyond the usual "boss gets wounded and flees" routine and justifies her survival with by the game's Toxic Phlebotinum. One of the Pirate logs you can find mention that "the Dark Hunter" reformed out of stray particles in their Phazon storage, where the thing then proceeded to absorb the entire load and wreak havoc upon the crew. The only thing that is able to finally kill Dark Samus is the entire sentient planet Phaaze exploding, thus killing all Phazon everywhere, including what was keeping Metroid Prime/Dark Samus alive.
- The other hunters in Metroid Prime: Hunters always fade away every time you reduce their health to zero. They always come back no matter how much you beat them.
- Edward Diego, the dragon of System Shock, only bites it after the third encounter.
Hack and Slash
- Happens in basically every fight with Aesir in Bayonetta 2. Yes, even the final one. However, there's at least a reason you had to beat him up each time.
- First time, as The Prophet, beating him just gives Bayonetta and Loki a chance to escape through a portal to Hell.
- Second time, as his child form Loptr, beating him just means he stops playing, but overdoes it and knocks you out of the sky, inadvertently letting you escape.
- Even in the final fight
- Beating Phase 1 just gives your ally Balder enough time to recover.
- Beating Phase 2+3 gives your other allies enough time to activate the Void card
- After this, you finally get to deliver one of the most satisfying No Holds Barred Beatdowns in video game history.
- Devil May Cry. Every single boss in the original game. All of them. And some of them even come back after they're Dead for Real.
- A fair few of them refuse to go away in Devil May Cry 3 too.
- In Devil May Cry 4, three of the bosses survive to
fight another daybe killed by Dante when you repeat the game backwards. Two of them survive Nero to be pummeled by Nero again later on. Hell, one of those two comes back a third time, to be killed by Dante again. These guys just don't die.
- In the Dynasty Warriors series (and the related Samurai Warriors and Warriors Orochi), after you defeat opposing playable characters in battle, they are usually shown retreating, only dying if the story requires it or it's the last stage. This is most noticeable in stages where your objective is to chase down the enemy commander before they get a chance to retreat and live to fight another day. After catching and defeating them, you then get a cutscene - where they retreat and live to fight another day.
- Many, many times in the Sengoku Basara series. It's all well and good that some of the characters don't want to kill their Worthy Opponents, which allows them to pop up later in the story, but most of the major battles end with the loser not even showing signs of being hurt.
- In Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars, one of the heroes has a spell that makes the enemy have to kill him twice.
- Happens with certain important characters in City of Heroes and City of Villains. Sometimes you'll see the character collapse and be informed through dialog afterward that they actually retreated or teleported or whathaveyou, other times they'll actually play a teleport-away animation. Some of these characters don't even HAVE a defeated animation, and will play their teleport-away animation when defeated even if in-context you really did defeat them for real.
- Mary Ma Ccomber is the most extreme example. You fight her, she is defeated, she comes back stronger to fight again nine times.
- Kingdom of Loathing has the appropriately-named Ed the Undying, who keeps getting back up after you beat him (looking increasingly beat up and with fewer Hit Points each time) until finally after seven fights you sweep what's left of him (which is still trying to kill you) into a corner and leave him there.
- The final boss in this game also has three forms - A Naughty Sorceress, some kind of tentacle monster, and finally a sausage, who can only be killed with a certain weapon.
- In World of Warcraft, the final boss of the Ring of Blood, Mogor, will resurrect and fight you a second time. Justified by the fact that the Shaman character class has precisely this ability, though player characters have a less powerful version of the spell than Mogor.
- Whitemane (a priest) in Scarlet Monastery: Once you kill her superior, Highlord Mograine, she appears, puts the whole party to sleep and revives him. For an extra bonus, any other enemy left alive will be able to beat on the sleeping players for the entire duration.
- Kael'Thas is well known for this, having reappeared in the level 70 instance Magister's Terrace following his supposed death in Tempest Keep. Thus leading to his well known (and mocked) quote: 'Tempest Keep was merely a setback...'
- The Lich King does this. After you get him to 10% of his health, he one-shots everyone in the party and prevents you from resurrecting. A cutscene brings you back to life and imprisons the Lich King, making him unable to do anything, so your entire party can just wail on him until he dies. Technically his HP doesn't drop to zero, but it's the same thing.
- And that's the best case. If you fight him in the Halls of Reflection, you can deal enough damage to kill him, but he'll remain at 1 health without so much as an "Immune" or "Absorb".
- The Big Bad of Ghouls 'n Ghosts. If you actually manage to beat that hellish game once, you discover you must beat it AGAIN while somehow managing to keep the weapon you receive by beating the final boss the first time through.
- Jak II: Renegade has a frustrating Boss Battle against Baron Praxis to stop him from getting the Precursor Stone. It's your second fight against the guy, so him escaping and gloating is no surprise. But even winning doesn't stop him from getting away with the MacGuffin! Come on!
- Bass in Mega Man 7 and Mega Man 8 will always have his health reduced to a single point when you defeat him, even if your attack is more than powerful enough to knock out his health in a single shot. Bass makes his speech and then teleports away. Every other boss explodes when their health is depleted, but Bass always manages to survive through Last Chance Hit Point.
- After exploding the president's escape pod, which has the explicit effect of "Destroy the craft, and kill their leader", the president is still shown walking sadly away perfectly unharmed in Shadow the Hedgehog.
- Happens all the time in Sonic Adventure 2. However, this is justified as most of the bosses are other playable characters, and the story does not change when playing as a different one (the perspective just changes). This means that every one of these ends in a stalemate.
Real Time Strategy
- In Magic And Mayhem, bosses frequently teleport away rather than dying when their health reaches 0. Amusingly, the second time you meet Ariadne, the developers forgot to do this, and it's possible to kill her. She still shows up a few levels later to do her Heel–Face Turn, though.
- Mal'Ganis did this both in Warcraft III and the recreation in the MMO in the "Culling of Stratholme". Quite intentionally so as he wanted to lure Arthas to Northrend.
- In Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, you fight every member of the Nebulox, bringing their HP to zero, yet they live to fight another day.
- In Star Fox: Assault, you very clearly defeat Star Wolf by shooting down their ships, causing them to explode, but they are perfectly fine in the immediately following cutscene.
- In Star Fox 64, after you whittle down Andross's "Weapon X" health bar to 0, the robot just gets back up with half of his health refilled. And then Slippy gets in the way and is knocked to another planet if you take too long.
- But then you only have to get the health bar down halfway before it suddenly drops to nothing (and stays onscreen instead of disappearing for the cutscene). And the boss doesn't explode like every other one does. It's fairly clear something is up even before it suddenly revives.
- In Sunset Riders when you finally defeat Chief Scalpen, he doesn't die like the other bosses, he is simply wounded, and his sister enters the screen and pleads for mercy... "Please, don't shoot my brother, he was only following orders!", "Alright, Ma'am, we won't shoot him!" Despite the fact we've already shot him about 50 times!
- Every boss in Touhou explodes spectacularly after being defeated, even if you don't hit them once. In the post-battle cutscene, however, they rarely have more than a few scratches. Completely justified, as the spellcard rules were created for the express purpose of ensuring fights would be non-lethal.
- Ace Combat series is often guilty of this.
- In the final Loki series mission of Wing Commander III, you're given the option to engage Prince Thrakhath at the end of the mission, but your carrier is about to jump out of the system, so if you stop to engage Thrakhath you won't make it home, and wind up stranded in the system (game over). However, if you conserve your missiles in the earlier parts, you can salvo-fire all of them and run for the carrier while the missiles track him down. If they make the kill before you land you get the death message, but at the end of the final mission in the game he shows up again as if nothing had happened to him in the Loki system.note
- Metal Gear Solid is pretty fond of this as well. You can shoot someone with a few dozen bullets, and drain of his life points. But often enough he either gets away anyway or at least tells you his life story before dying. Psycho Mantis is quite talkative before his end, while Sniper Wolf gets away after the first battle. Revolver Ocelot escapes whatever you throw at him, it though he sometimes at least shows he got hurt. Liquid, however, is the game's master of this little maneuver: his first battle with Snake ends when the helicopter he's piloting gets shot down in flames, and when he reappears uninjured a matter of hours later, it is probably the least absurd comeback he pulls off (the others involve an explosion right next to him so strong it knocked Solid out from across the room, and being beaten to death followed by a twenty-story fall).
- The sequels are better with this. In 2, you only tranquilize Olga, so no problems with her survival, Vamp... is immortal, so don't ask me how his life bar works anyway, Fatman does seem to meet his end when you beat him, so does Solidus. In Three, Ocelot does survive no matter what you hit him with, but the Cobras all have the decency to blow up after you beat them. And in Four, all battles are final.
- Interestingly justified in MGS3: Snake Eater. All of your fights with Ocelot end with him either narrowly surviving or knocked out. When he is knocked out, you can pull out a weapon and kill him...but because the game takes in the past, and we have already seen him in the present, the game ends with a screen that says "Time Paradox." You can even hear Col. Cambell say "You can't go changing history like that!"
- Every single boss in Tenchu Stealth Assassin; whenever you kill a boss, the following cutscene shows them falling to their knees at the very spot they were standing on before the battle began, High-Pressure Blood blurting out of their chest as they utter their Last Words. Even if the killing blow you delivered already sent them lying on the floor (by throwing them a grenade to the face or a very powerful upwards slash). Or even if you lured them away from the area where you were supposed to fight them and sent them drowning to death in a river at the other side of the game map.
- If you enter a cheat code allowing you to deal 100 points of damage to an enemy and use it to kill a boss that was supposed to survive the fight, the game will still consider they were alive for the following cutscene. Prime examples of this are the first fight with Onikage (in the first game) and Lady Kagami (in the sequel).
- In Bleach: The 3rd Phantom, no matter how badly Mad Eater is defeated or by whom, he always gets back up to gloat that the Kudo twins are too weak to hurt him. That is, until the twins gain their Shikai, after which Mad Eater is promptly Killed Off for Real.
- In Fire Emblem, a character who is defeated in battle is Killed Off for Real. However, many games have a Hopeless Boss Fight in which you're supposed to avoid the boss instead of fighting them. However, if you do manage to beat them, either through the use of a glitch or just really strong units, they retreat but remain alive.
- Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword has a noteworthy exception: you aren't supposed to be able to kill Vaida in Chapter 24/26 but rather keep your distance, and she'll becomes recruitable a few chapters later; if you do kill her, however, she is Killed Off for Real and never appears again. In fairness, she's not a particularly major character so unlike most Bosses, her death doesn't impact the gameplay very much.
- A similar thing happens for the player's party in some recent Fire Emblem games. For characters vital to the plot, except the main character, a dialogue will take place in which they say "I'm retreating." Then, though the units remain unplayable, they still appear in cutscenes to make it so the game wouldn't require a million cutscenes to replace the events of what happens when important characters die. However, not much explanation goes into the reasoning of why the retreated characters can't be healed by a team of high-leveled healers...
- In Radiant Dawn, if you manage to defeat Ike in Chapter 3-13, he merely says that you've held out longer than he expected before being informed by one of his soldiers that his forces have breached your defenses at another location. The wounds that would have resulted in a Game Over were he under your control don't seem to bother him much.
- This happens constantly throughout the PSP game Jeanne d'Arc. The most egregious example happens to be English general John Talbot who you fight at least a dozen times, and he's always frustratingly hard. What the game doesn't tell you is that Talbot is actually immortal, and will never die for real, no matter how times Jeanne cuts him down. Eventually you're saved from Talbot by him just bored with fighting you.
- In Soul Nomad & the World Eaters, Feinne clocks in at a thousand levels and is supposed to be unbeatable without Gig's help, but thanks to grinding and planning, you can actually defeat her in those battles where you're really expected to lose. While the very first one leads to an Asagi encounter (and a very sudden end due to the plot - and the world - being broken) later ones (such as after Feinne destroys Raide) simply have the cutscene act out as though you were beaten. (May be justified since merely defeating Feinne is not enough to actually kill her.)
- The Belial is pretty easy to beat in Third Super Robot Wars Z: Tengoku-hen. In fact, Leonard's Twofold Action basically ends up just giving anyone he targets extra chances to hit the Belial since Leonard's stats are kind of garbage. Which makes sense, given that he's not actually utilizing any of the Belial's potential. However, the Belial isn't actually beaten. Z-BLUE decides to focus fire upon the Belial, and Sousuke tells Leonard that even he can't fight the entirety of Z-BLUE single-handedly. Leonard agrees, but intends to destroy the Arbalest all the same. The Belial begins tearing the Arbalest apart, with Leonard stating that it's a fine unit, yet as a toy it's still lacking. The Arbalest is completely destroyed, and a dying AL tells Sousuke to bail out. "You did well AL... I hereby relieve you of duty."
- In Tears to Tiara 2, before your final encounter with them, battles with Izebel and/or Laelius always have a timed survival or some form of escape as the winning condition, with defeating them being a bonus option. But no matter whether or not you defeat them, the story always pretend you took the escape option.
- In Telepath Tactics, some maps will feature plot-important enemies who you aren't intended to fight, and who reappear later in the story. If you do manage to reduce their health to 0, they'll just run away, without even dropping their inventory. You might get a special line of dialogue for your trouble, though.
Third Person Shooter
- Pretty much every battle in Earth Defense Force has this. The narrative describes the EDF forces dwindling and being driven back, with repeated need for decisive victories - yet in every battle the player has participated in, including ones that were supposed to be the decisive ones, the EDF trounced the Ravagers.
- The first battle with Albert Wesker in Resident Evil 5 will always end with Wesker mocking you, even if several rockets blew his face open a few moments ago.
- Immortal Defense has the second boss whose supposed to be unstoppable. The entire plot for the next several campaigns is based off losing to him. The developer said as much as I couldn't beat him so I thought no one else good. Considering that the rest of the game takes place Through the Eyes of Madness as a result of losing makes this example suck.
Turn Based Strategy
- In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Kurtis and Vulcanus are all just fine after their respective battles. Mid-Boss generally appears bandaged up after his fights and missing some teeth (Most notably the second time, where his sprite looks like a friggin' mummy.)
- This continues well into Disgaea 2 and Disgaea 3, where, Axel the Prism Rangers, Mao's Teachers, The Vatos Bros, and the Final Boss of Disgaea 3 are all more or less perfectly fine after their final battles.
- Disgaea 3 spoofs it with Super Hero Aurum, who, after apparently being killed, pops right back in good as new and reminds you that, as the Final Boss, he gets to fight you again in his true form.
Mao: Damn you for using such a convenient game mechanic!
- Justified in that the netherworlds are sort of the afterlife anyway, and they seem to have excellent healthcare.
- Disgaea 4 does this quite literally when the chief of the Information Bureau decides that, since she controls all the information in the Netherworld, she can erase her defeat by Valvatorez simply by refusing to acknowledge it as a fact. After the team tries and fails to counter her Insane Troll Logic, Valvatorez shrugs his shoulders and decides she's right — so he'll just have to beat the crap out of her again. Over and over. Forever. Upon hearing this, the chief decides that The Battle Did In Fact Count.
- Overlord Zenon, Big Bad of the second game, actually justifies this. His curse doesn't so much turn all of Veldime's humans into demons, it drains their humanity and feeds into his life-force. Even if he's killed, he can just suck away more of Veldime's altered humans' memories and conscience to revive himself.
- In Langrisser, you're supposed to run from the first battle, while King Alfador remains behind to die with dignity. You can, however, win it if you're awesome enough with the tactics...at which point the King sends you to go get reinforcements. Needless to say, while you're away, the story corrects the little matter of His Majesty's survival...
- Averting the hell out of this trope is pretty much the entire point of the Mobile Suit Gundam: Gihren's Greed games. Killing named characters before or after the point they were supposed to die in the original series can change the way the entire story progresses, creating any number of Alternate Histories of the Universal Century timeline.
- Up to and including the survival of Gihren Zabi himself.
- The bosses you fight in Namco × Capcom and Project X Zone tend to retreat when defeated, until the final chapters where you defeat them for good.
- The Super Robot Wars series uses two variants, usually dictated by the plots of the anime series they're drawing from. Named enemies (usually bosses) often retreat instead of dying, especially early in the game. This may extend to denying the player a "dynamic kill" animation usually displayed when taking out enemies with powerful attacks. Very occasionally, an enemy will instead regain full health and go into a cutscene attack on someone from its home series, leaving that character at critical health (or shot down outright) before leaving the field.
- In Super Robot Wars: Original Generation 2, if you somehow beat the End Bosses when they're chasing you during a Final Boss Preview where you are SUPPOSED to run like hell; they'll chuckle, Break The Fourth Wall and compliment you the player and give you ridiculous loot and exp; but then go back to the plot.
- This happens a lot in Yggdra Union.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, defeating Big Bad Alduin for the first time, causes him to simply taunt you and fly off, Dragonrend or no. Subverted in that another dragon called Odahviing later reveals that a fair number of dragons, himself included, are starting to question Alduin's lordship. Running from your battle (which you won, fair and square) painted him as a Dirty Coward. Double subverted in that this reveal never translates into the gameplay at all.
- Saren, The Dragon in Mass Effect. The first time you encounter him at Virmire, it doesn't matter how well you do against him, when his hp reaches 0 the cutscene will show him stepping down of his flying saucer towards you and grabbing you on the air like if he has just beaten the shit out of you.
- In Mass Effect 3, during the fight with Kai Leng on Thessia, you take his shields down no less than three times, with him running off each time while his shields recharge and letting the accompanying Cerberus gunship rail on you. After the third time, a cutscene kicks in where, in a superb display of Cutscene Incompetence from Shepard and his/her squad mates, Kai Leng - seemingly unwinded - tosses them all aside and orders the helicoper to blow up the temple they're in. The fight is incredibly easy by comparison of a lot of encounters you've had by this point, making Kai Leng's 'victory' seem incredibly forced. It's only made worse by the fact Leng in-character is a Smug Snake who goes out of his way to mock you in an email for failing to save Thessia.
- In Salt and Sanctuary, the first boss fight against The Unspeakable Deep will likely end in defeat the first time you face it since its attacks can kill all of the starting characters in one or two hits. You then wash up on the island's shore, where the game begins in earnest. Defeating the Unspeakable Deep is actually rather simple, if time-consuming, since all of its attacks are rather predictable and can be rolled through by a character with <25% equip load. Even if you beat it, the ship still sinks — which makes sense since a huge demon is stomping around on it during a violent storm — and you still wash up on the island's shore. Winning rewards you with 8000 salt (8800 if you picked the ring that grants bonus salt as a starting bonus) and various rare upgrade materials, so it's not a total waste of time.
- Played with in South Park: The Stick of Truth: four guys ambush you, and will tell you to come quietly because there's no way you can beat them at this point in the game. However, if you've been levelling up from doing sidequests, you can beat them quite easily. The cutscene still acts as if they had curb-stomped you.
- If you fight Napstablook, they'll eventually admit that ghosts can't actually be killed and they were only lowering their HP bar to be polite. They then decide that this actually made things more awkward, so they run away and tell you to pretend you beat them.
- The battle with Toriel seems set up to invoke this trope; she outright tells you she's testing your strength, and in most RPGs, a friendly character fighting you for this reason won't actually die. But Toriel will. Even if you realize that wiping out her last HP will kill her, and try just weakening her to get her to give up (which does work on some earlier enemies, if you couldn't figure out how to placate them correctly), you'll deal a surprise Critical Hit, just to make sure you kill her.
- Played confusingly straight by Asgore. At this point, you've spent the entire game knowing that defeating monsters in battle will kill them for real, but Asgore arbitrarily manages to survive with 1 HP.
- Alpha Protocol has this for most of it's boss fights, where immediately after depleting a boss's health bar, the boss seems to have just been winded rather than loaded with dozens of bullets.
- Done almost frustratingly in Naruto: The Broken Bond with the Sound Four. After you fight each one, you immediately go into a refight with a special condition. Some of them are to survive for a certain amount of time, even if you've been kicking their ass up to that point and could easily end the battle in 30 seconds instead of 90.
- In 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, certain monster types will steal this trope into the tabletop arena. Since many player-character powers can put a monster on lockdown, unable to do much for the duration of a fight, some monsters will be built with two character sheets. The first is what the characters first encounter, and the second is what they encounter rising from the ashes of the first conveniently free of marks, powers, lingering effects, and penalties.
- A form of this is a vital game mechanic in Mutants & Masterminds. A villain who is defeated will have had their plot foiled, but will escape in one form or another to fight another day, giving the heroes a bonus "Hero Point" for the GM Fiat. This is in part due to the Four Color Comic basis of the system where villains always make miraculous escapes or suffer accidents where No One Could Survive That!.
- Another tabletop RPG example in the form of Truth & Justice, where the villains have their own "Villain Points" that the GM can spend to give them a sudden escape - a secret passage, dropping a smoke bomb and disappearing, actually having been a robot double, whatever. It served as a pacing element to the plot, always giving a villain an out until the climactic final confrontation, while limiting the capacity for GM Fiat to protect a Creator's Pet villain from ultimate comeuppance. Once a villain was empty, they were caught and this trope could no longer apply (until they escaped again for another story).