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Deadly Game / Live-Action TV

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    In Fiction 
  • In Alice in Borderland, people from all over Japan are transported to a parallel Tokyo in which they're forced to continually solve deadly puzzles in order to survive, with no end in sight. Winners receive an extension on their "visa", while losers, people who try to leave a game after entering, or anyone whose visa expires faces immediate execution by an overhead laser boring through their skull. Examples include a series of escape rooms where failing to pick the correct door results in immediate death, and a game of "tag" using submachine guns.
  • Blake's 7
    • The episode "Games" has the MacGuffin protected by lethal Booby Traps which include a flight simulator and Quick Draw game that killed the players if they didn't win. Fortunately Ace Pilot Tarrant and The Gunslinger Soolin just happen to be on the Boarding Party sent to get it.
    • The episode "Gambit" includes a game of speed chess where the challenger is strapped to an electric chair. He either wins an obscene amount of money, or he loses and the resident chessmaster pushes a button and fries him. After Vila and Avon scam the casino with the help of Orac, Vila is tricked into playing the game.
    • The episode "Death-Watch" features a one-on-one duel to the death conducted between representatives of two planets who use the duels as a substitute for all-out interplanetary war. The events are broadcast widely, and of course nobody could possibly want to interfere with them for their own political gain...
  • Doctor Who has done most versions of this, from actual kid's games to the Immoral Reality Show:
    • "The Celestial Toymaker" saw the cast forced into children's games, failure in which would mean their eternal enslavement.
    • In the serial "Vengeance on Varos", the Doctor and Peri land on a planet where executions are televised as part of a Bread and Circuses system.
    • "Bad Wolf" did this with parodies of popular British Reality Shows set in 200,100 AD, including a version of Big Brother where a contestant who is voted out of the house actually gets disintegrated, and a version of The Weakest Link with the same punishment for elimination — or so it seems; it turns out to be a Fate Worse than Death (being killed and having your genetic material used for Daleks). Although these have been interpreted as Deconstructions by fans, creator Russell T. Davies is known to be a fan of reality TV, and the episodes are more of an Affectionate Parody.
    • In "The Wedding of River Song", the Doctor is briefly shown playing "Live Chess" (the pieces are electrified and are charged when moved) with an agent of the Silence and has manipulated his opponent into a situation where his only possible move is with a Queen that has accumulated a lethal charge. But the Doctor is willing to concede if he gets the information he wants.
    • "The Ghost Monument": The Relay of the Five Galaxies is a race spanning 94 worlds that can only have one winner/survivor. Angstrom and Epzo are the last contestants out of a starting field of over four thousand.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki was all about this: An unwilling Hero, an Anti-Hero, an Action Girl and a bunch of Jerkasses are drawn into an Alternate Dimension populated with man-eating monsters. Then everyone gets a set of armor, a Mechanical Monster as a Bond Creatures and... a deck of cards. And these guys are all more or less adults. With this equipment, they get to fight each other to the death, with the last survivor being granted a wish by the mysterious host of this Deadly Game called "Rider War". It turns out that the host has no intention on keeping his word. He has all those people fighting for their lives and killing each other so that he can use his overpowered Kamen Rider Odin, actually a puppet who is an extension of his will (sucks to be the poor sap who put on the suit) in order to win the wish, using it to save his sister. Considering that Kamen Rider is normally a franchise of Superhero shows, Ryuki was received as a case of Deconstruction; an attempt to make an already pretty Dark and Edgy series even Darker and Edgier.
      • Ironically, the American adaptation Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is more true to the genre than it is to its source material, reverting back to the "Henshin Heroes fighting monsters to save the world" theme. It also keeps one of the best aspects of Ryuki — each Rider having his own story and each desiring to gain something different by participating. What each one thinks the battle between Riders really is differs from Rider to Rider. (At least one thinks he's Fight Clubbing.) In truth, the bad guy has almost all of the Rider decks. Each only works for its designated user, so he has to get the Earth-born doubles of the Riders of his dimension to fight for him, usually by either trickery, or messing with their lives behind the scenes and then sweeping in to offer them the only way out.
    • Kamen Rider Blade has a twist on the idea in that it's the monsters engaging in such a game — they're battling each other to determine which species rules the Earth; the human representative was the last one standing last time which is why we're dominant. The Riders, rather than being intended participants, are outside interference trying to manipulate the outcome.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid has a video game theme and a medical theme in one. The villains are basically both kinds of virus at once, programs based on in-universe video game villains arising from humans suffering from the 'game disease.' It turns out the mysterious "Kamen Rider Chronicle" game the main villains want to create is very much this: it allows you to become a Rider-like warrior called a Ride Player and battle the Mooks and monsters in the real world. There are two catches they don't tell you: one, "Game Over" means you die. Two, from the moment you first transform you are infected with the game disease, and so must win or die anyway!
    • Kamen Rider Geats is explicitly based on the Battle Royale Game video game genre. Supposedly, the competition featured in the series was organized as a way to recruit warriors to keep invading monsters in check (but it's eventually revealed that it's really an Immoral Reality Show and the monsters are under the game organizers' control — or not). And like Ryuki, the participants are charged to fight with the winner getting a wish granted; though at least this time they're only supposed to fight the monsters and attacking other players is penalized (under normal circumstances, anywaynote ). While it's clarified that most players are simply sent home with their memories wiped after being Eliminated from the Race, there are still always at least a few fatalities every time the game is played.
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "Upper-Class Twit of the Year" features a contest where various upper-class twits (it's a straightforward title) race to finish an obstacle course with challenges like unhooking a bra from a mannequin or running in a straight line. The last challenge? Shooting themselves in the head.
  • The Murdoch Mysteries episode "The Artful Detective" has an early 20th century version, minus the wide audience. A group of people who are desperate for money (and one Egomaniac Hunter) agree to attempt to kill each other for the entertainment of a bookmaker and his clients. The results are published in a local racing paper, disguised as a non-existent race. When Murdoch starts getting too close, a new "horse" is added to the listings: the Artful Detective.
  • The episode "Judgment Day" in the The Outer Limits (1995) series did a version of this with a reality TV show in which convicted criminals are hunted down on camera as their punishment.
  • An interesting twist was seen in an episode of The Prisoner (1967) with members of the Village taking part in a giant chess game with themselves as the pieces. It's not meant to be fatal, but one 'piece' who decides to move on his own initiative is subject to forced brainwashing.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    • The Digital Short "The Tizzle Wizzle Show" combines this with Subverted Kids' Show. It involves giving the kid show hosts knives, drugging them, turning off the lights and then fighting to the death until one is left standing. Apparently, the hosts enjoy and willingly play the game.
    • Another SNL skit featuring Chris Farley parodied Japanese game shows. It seemed to be just a Japanese counterpart to Jeopardy, with three contestants being asked questions by a host. However, it turns out that if you get the question wrong, you have to kill yourself. Farley's character, a Fish out of Water American who doesn't understand what's going on, blunders his way to the final round, where getting the questions wrong gets him electrocuted.
  • The Sliders episode "Rules of the Game" finds our heroes competing in a dangerous adventure-quest-type game show where the losers die.
  • Squid Game is a series in which 456 people, all of them deep in debt and facing financial ruin, are convinced to play a series of children's games for a very large sum of moneynote . It's only after they get there that they find out that the losers are summarily executed.
    • Game 1 is Red Light, Green Light with an automaton outfitted with motion sensor cameras. Any player caught moving during "Red Light" is shot, as are all players who fail to cross the finish line before the time limit. This is the moment when the competitors all realize that they can die, and the resulting Mass "Oh, Crap!" ends with half of them getting massacred as they try to run for the doors.
    • Game 2 tasks players with cutting a shape out of a sugar honeycomb with only a sewing needle. Any who break their cookie, or fail to complete the task within the time limit, are shot. From this point on, the challenges are designed to kill other players, if not directly as a consequence of others winning.
    • Game 3 is Tug-of-War on elevated platforms between teams of ten each. Losing teams fall to their demise.
    • Game 4 splits the players into groups of two to play marbles, with each player tasked with winning all of their opponent's marbles in whatever way they choose, short of violence. Players who lose all of their marbles are shot, as are any pairs who fail to determine a winner within the time limit.
    • Game 5 is a race across two bridges fitted with identical panels of glass. Only the tempered glass tiles will support the players' weight, while the other tiles will break and send them falling to their death. Any who fail to cross the finish line in the time limit will die when the glass panels explode.
    • The final game is the "squid game", a comparatively complex game that amounts to one player (or group of players) attempting to reach a certain point on the playing field while the other(s) try to push them out of bounds. The game continues until all but one player dies, winner take all. However, when the finalists actually play against each other, the game quickly devolves into a straight-up fight to the death, with the players focused more on killing each other than actually playing the game.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series had "The Squire of Gothos". The Trelane character is a godlike alien with a child's mind who is infatuated with Earth military history, particularly the Victorian era. He insists that he is a retired General and demands to be called Squire, eventually pitting Kirk and company against him in a "hunt." The character served as an inspiration for John de Lancie's Q, a recurring character on Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Hide and Q", the alien transplants the Enterprise crew into a Napoleonic war zone, and in "Q Pid", he forces Picard to reenact the exploits of Robin Hood and save Maid Marian from the Sheriff of Nottingham, played by Q himself.
    Q: "'Fairness' is such a human concept. Think imaginatively! This game shall, in fact, be completely unfair!"
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Subverted in the episode "Move Along Home". The crew seems to be trapped in a Deadly Game played by Quark and an alien. In the end, the entire crew is killed and removed from play to Quark's horror. Then they rematerialize back on the station, and the aliens who created the game are mystified by the fact that anyone would even consider that the people trapped in the game might be in real danger: it's only a game, after all.
    • Played straight, however, in "Our Man Bashir", in which the main crew's transporter patterns are sent into the James-Bond-esque holosuite program Bashir and Garak are enjoying, and Bashir must keep all the characters alive to prevent the program from erasing them from the game.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In "Tsunkatse", Seven and Tuvok are captured and forced to do gladiatorial combat, which is broadcast across space to numerous locations. Particularly jarring in that until they see Seven fighting, the crew of Voyager is enjoying these matches. Said episode features a cameo from The Rock. To be fair though, only some of the matches were to the death. The Rock's cameo was a non-lethal bout which Seven lost, called a blue match. The red match she is put in later is lethal.
    • In "The Killing Game", the Hirogen seize Voyager and brainwash the crew into playing holodeck characters in various war programs with the safety protocols turned off. The Doctor is working flat out to prevent anyone dying.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look: Should a game of Numberwang go without either contestant achieving Numberwang, the game goes into Sudden Death, where the contestants are placed in chambers filled with poisonous gas. Whoever dies first "wins".
  • The Twilight Zone (2002) featured an episode titled "How Much Do You Love Your Kid?" in which a reality show kidnaps a woman's son and said mother has to track down the kidnapper before it's too late. The twist is that the woman's ex-husband was the kidnapper and was in on the whole thing. The trauma she suffered from the game prompts her to shoot him, causing her to win but now have to use the prize money for an attorney.
  • The Year of the Sex Olympics features the titular games being pre-empted for "The Live Life Show", in which a family is taken to a Scottish island and murdered brutally - in this world, even non-stop pornography is less popular than snuff, apparently.

    Game Shows and Reality Shows 
While this trope is most common in fiction, there have been some game shows and reality shows that invoked its stylistic trappings without putting contestants in any serious danger — as well as a rare few that actually did so.
  • 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show, which ABC put into the "post-Wipeout" timeslot a year after the below-mentioned Downfall, is a lot more justifiable as a deadly game, or at least something that's so overly ridiculous that it can easily be played off as one.
  • The 2002 Fox game show The Chamber was probably the closest thing to a legitimately and potentially deadly game in real life. Contestants had to answer questions while locked inside a torture chamber, where they endured extreme heat and cold that got worse with each level. Unaired episodes included electricity, fire, and insects. The kicker? The cold Chamber's winds at Level 4 and up could cause extreme frostbite — and there were seven levels. Fortunately, the show was canceled after only three episodes (a total of six were filmed), before any contestants could get seriously injured, though Game Show Garbage reports that at least one contestant sued the show's producers after he was hospitalized from it.
  • Spanish game show Crush has contestants answering questions by placing themselves under safes with the choices. If they pick the wrong safe, they'll be 'crushed' by it. It was played ligtheartedly, as the eliminated contestants would be shown in a Fluffy Cloud Heaven-like 'limbo' with fake bandages and optional wings and halos.
  • The Japanese game show Dasshutsu Game DERO! was played off as one, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek. Contestants who lost a round were talked about as if they had just died, but the "deaths" were blatantly fake (and this was quite clearly intentional), and everyone would appear back on camera after the round without so much as a scratch (except for the Water Room leaving players soaking wet). Each game had its own way in which contestants could "die" and lose the round, such as having the Malevolent Architecture dump them into a Bottomless Pit, or cutting the wrong wire in a Wire Dilemma and being "blown up" with a blast of CO2 smoke effects.
  • Theoretically, Downfall (2010) could have been played off like one (they managed to get Chris Jericho to host too!), had they not tried to avert it as much as possible and point out they were not trying to be evil.
  • Meanwhile, in Russia, a tech millionaire named Yevgeny Pyatkovsky made headlines in 2016 by announcing a show called Game2: Winter. Essentially a hardcore version of Survivor, the show would've seen thirty contestants dumped into a 50,000-acre tract of Siberian taiga and left to survive for nine months, each of them provided with only a knife, a video camera with rechargeable batteries, and wilderness survival training from ex-Spetsnaz operatives. There would be no film crew or medical staff, only two thousand cameras rigged up to film everything remotely, though each contestant would have a "panic button" they can use for rescue via helicopter (at the cost of forfeiting the game).

    The premise alone was enough to put it on this list, with all contestants signing waivers absolving the producers of any responsibility for injuries, trauma, or deaths. However, what really pushed it over the top was Pyatkovsky's explicit promise that everything would be permitted, including fighting, rape (the contestants would be evenly split along gender lines), and murder. He did backtrack when pressed on the matter of such things being against the law, reminding people that the laws of Russia would still apply, and that the authorities would prosecute any crimes committed by the contestants. In the end, it turned out that the show didn't exist and was actually a publicity stunt that Pyatkovsky had carried out for market research, leaving many people who'd signed up to participate feeling that they'd been duped and that Pyatkovsky had done little more than fuel negative Russian stereotypes (ironically, he mentioned anti-Russian sentiment as one of the reasons he'd pitched the show, as he figured that everybody would believe it).
  • Hellevator on GSN, a show in which a team of three contestants must complete three challenges themed around horror movies, all while being stalked and chased by masked maniacs who "kill" them if they fail the challenge.
  • The entire premise of Inquizition.
  • Invoked by the French made-for-TV documentary Le Jeu de la Mort, which performed Stanley Milgram's famous peer influence experiment with the added element of Reality TV. The test subjects were supposedly being paid to participate as contestants on a Game Show pilot, La Zone Xtrême. As with the original experiment, they were to administer increasingly powerful shocks to someone else (who was a trained actor, much like the original) as punishment for answering questions wrong; ranging from from "mild buzz" to "lethal". But this time, the subject was prodded on by both the host and a Studio Audience to deliver the shocks. Out of the 80 people who auditioned, 64 of them, or 80%, went all the way to the highest level of shock, as they were instructed.
  • The 2001 Fox reality game show Murder In Small Town X did this in kayfabe. It featured its contestants as investigators trying to solve a series of murders in small-town Maine. The method of getting Voted Off the Island? Getting "murdered" by the killer. Ironically, the winner of the show, FDNY firefighter Ángel Juarbe, Jr., died on 9/11 — just one week after the final episode aired.
  • The GSN show Russian Roulette emulated this by having players risk falling through a trap door upon getting questions wrong, never to be seen again. As the game went on, more "drop zones" were added to up the stakes.
  • Scratch N' Sniff's Den of Doom pits five human contestants against two puppet hyenas looking to eat them. With four or all of the contestants winding up dead by the end of each show, there's a less than 20% chance of surviving while playing the game.
  • Several Sci Fi Channel and Syfy game shows, including Exit (an American version of DERO! that plays itself off even more seriously than the original), Estate of Panic, and Total Blackout, have emulated this trope, subjecting losing teams to simulated death traps or dropping them into unlighted pits "never to return".
  • Whodunnit? (2013) has this in its premise, as it's a Ten Little Murder Victims scenario with The Mole "Murdering" last week's eliminated contestant in a way that the contestants have to solve, with the worst being the next Victim of the Week.