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Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu

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Wally West: ...You lose.
Brainiac-Luthor: Hardly. Look around you — the Justice League is completely defeated, and so are you. For all your efforts, you have but inconvenienced me, speck.

Okay, so you've just gotten into a brawl with your local Eldritch Abomination, just after you deliver the Knockout Punch against him. Apparently as a final "screw you", something bad happens to you, or the world you live in, in such a way there is almost no way to solve that problem that will be done without sacrifice.

Congratulations, you just broke your arm punching out Cthulhu.

This trope is called upon as a way of showing the true futility of trying to stop the physical or literal manifestation of an all-powerful being. It really doesn't matter if you have powerful mythical weapons or giant galaxy-destroying guns; the physical form of him is irrelevant to his powers to utterly smack you aside with merely a nod. It just can't really be done. Eldritch Abominations such as the namer of the trope himself do not feel much pain from being punched out, since all you did was merely destroy his physical manifestation, and punching him out will only delay your demise as you:

  1. Stop him for now; when he wakes up, he is going to be pissed.
  2. Find out your punch didn't even graze him.
  3. Have a broken arm, so when he wakes up, you will be screwed.
  4. Are now possessed or infected with The Virus as a result of touching or killing him, and will eventually become him...
  5. Truly do defeat him, but only at the cost of almost everything you were trying to save, up to and including your sanity or your soul.
  6. Truly do defeat him, but have drawn the attention of even worse things that want revenge on you.
  7. Kill his weak form, then he transforms...
  8. Set off his backup plan — can be anything from a child with a water squirter, to a bomb, or to the awakening of a giant demon.
  9. Find out that he was the sanest of the bunch; without him, the smaller fry are now beating up one another and the brawl takes out the world since there is no one to lead them. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  10. Have to face him again when you die because he's in charge of the afterlife.

This trope can also extend to normal all-powerful organizations or an alien race where it is only a temporary victory and the next battle can be for sure a total defeat. For endings related to this trope, either 1) A close call, or 2) all for naught!

Sub-Trope of Pyrrhic Victory. Unlike Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?, this one will happen in a Cosmic Horror Story.

As this can be an Ending Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: Levi is left injured and sidelined after blocking an attack from the Female Titan to save Mikasa. He still manages to win the fight, as evidence of how deserving he is of his World's Strongest Man reputation. Eren also tends to do this constantly whenever he fights other Titans, but it rarely slows him down for long since he has a Healing Factor.
  • In Black Bullet, during Episode 4, when faced with an empty railgun and an attacking Eldritch Abomination, Rentaro rips off his prosthetic arm, loads it into the railgun and answers Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?... at a fraction of the speed of light, leaving him armless until he was able to get a new one.
  • Black Clover:
    • After a gruelling battle, Asta manages to defeat Vetto before Yami finishes him off. While Vetto did break both of Asta's arms during the fight, it's not like they cannot be healed using magic. Except they actually can't be healed, because Vetto used Demon Beast Magic to do so; this imparted a powerful, ancient form of curse magic on Asta, which modern magic has no hope of treating. It takes a visit to the Witch Queen before Asta can be healed.
    • Asta And Yami manage to defeat Dante after Asta makes a deal with the Anti-Magic Devil for more power. Then his brother Zenon shows up and kidnaps Yami while everyone is too exhausted to fight him or too weak to even scratch him.
    • Zora absorbs some of Lucifero's magic and uses it to try and punch him. Lucifero responds with a punch of his own, which cancels both attacks and injures Zora from the severe backlash.
  • The Safeguards in Blame! include a giant, Cthulhu-shaped model. While Killy is carrying an even more eldritch weapon, he broke his arm shooting Cthulhubot.
  • Bleach:
    • Uryu decides to end his fight with Mayuri Kurotsuchi by destroying the Sanrei Glove, which allows him to use Letzt Stil and overpower not just Mayuri, but his Bankai as well. Once Mayuri is forced to retreat, Uryu ends up permanently losing his Quincy powers. At least, until his father Ryuken tells him there's a way to restore them in the next arc.
    • Ichigo's final victory against Aizen comes at a steep cost: because he used the Final Getsuga Tenshou, he is forced to give up his Shinigami powers and is turned into a normal human, leaving him unable to see spirits or Shinigami. Just like Uryu, his powers are also restored, though in Ichigo's case it takes seventeen months and the combined Reiatsu of every seated officer in the Gotei 13.
    • Following the Vandenreich's first invasion, Komamura decides to cross the Godzilla Threshold and demand that his great-grandfather teach him their clan's Humanization Technique. Using it in his rematch against Bambietta allows him to defeat her, at the cost of permanently turning him into a normal wolf.
  • In Bokurano, the dimensional robots are so powerful that conventional militaries stand no chance. You do have Zearth, your own dimension robot which proved to be more powerful than some of them but it's run on your lifeforce and will drain you dead. Don't want to punch them? Your universe will perish. You can't lose a single fight, either. And if you try to reverse-engineer the robots, the guys in charge will just eat everyone on your planet.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The backstory for Demon King Piccolo in Dragon Ball. Muten Roshi's master managed to come up with a technique to seal away Piccolo, but he dies using it, and Piccolo is later released anyways. Both attempts to reuse the technique fail, with Roshi screwing it up and dying, and Tien failing because Piccolo had a Mook take the hit for him. When Goku finally kills him, he’s broken nearly every limb in his body.
    • Dragon Ball Z does this roughly every time it turns around:
      • One moment which comes to mind is when Goku uses his Kamehameha at Kaioken x4 in a Beam-O-War against Vegeta, with the fate of the planet hanging in the balance, and ultimately sends Vegeta flying into the stratosphere. Then Yajirobe gives Goku a light congratulatory slap on the back, and Goku screams in pain due to the Heroic RRoD brought about by the Kaioken. Vegeta falls to earth, hurt but not nearly as badly as Goku is, and just transforms.
      • The whole fight with Vegeta is this. He's beaten and forced to retreat from Earth, but Goku is on death's doorstep, and Gohan is left badly injured. Then Vegeta recovers, though this is overshadowed by his recovery coinciding with an introduction of an even bigger threat, Freeza. Him surviving actually benefited the protagonists in the next arc.
      • Tien often pulls this trope, over-exerting himself to near death, and in the fight with Nappa, it kills him. Tien has another case of this when overuses a Dangerous Forbidden Technique to try and slow down Cell to allow #18 to get away. The most he's able to do is slow him down, and his exerting himself left him too weak to even run away, and only survived because Goku saved him. And his actions proved futile in the long run anyways.
    • Dragon Ball Super has Zamazu as an example in one arc who pulls it off multiple times. They delete his past self from existence, but because his future self is wearing a time ring he is immune to changes to the timeline. After sealing him in a can and he gets out, he decides to fuse with his alternate self who switched bodies with Goku. And finally, after splitting the fused Zamasu in half and killing him, he transcends his physical body and threatens not only the universe but the multiverse, and possibly all alternate timelines too. He's only defeated when Goku calls that timeline's omniking who wipes out that timeline's entire multiverse just to get rid of Zamasu.
    • Also from Super is Goku's fight with Hit, a Universe 6 assassin with Time Master abilities that lets him evade and counter nearly all of Goku's attacks. The only way Goku is able to keep up is by combining his Super Saiyan Blue form with Kaioken x10, overclocking his body to the point that he can move faster than Hit can stop time, allowing them to fight on equal footing (even though Hit was holding back because the tournament they were fighting in forbade killing). After powering back down, however, Goku is left in immense pain, and for some time afterwards, he suffered from a form of Power Incontinence due to taxing his ki so heavily.
  • Fairy Tail
    • Happens during the fight against Master Hades. Laxus despite pulling a Big Damn Heroes realizes he can't defeat Hades despite managing to knock him around, so he gives his magic power to Natsu. With Laxus' magic power added to his own, he singlehandedly smacks Hades, capped off with a massive Dragon's Roar that can be seen across the whole island. He then falls down, completely out of power and too sore to move at all, and watches helplessly as Hades gets back up and activates his One-Winged Angel move. Only the fact that Hades is then crippled by the Exceeds destroying his Soul Jar allowing him to keep getting up at around the same time plus the heroes getting a Heroic Second Wind from their magic power getting a top off thanks to the Tenrou Tree being restored lets them triumph.
    • This trope is in effect whenever Natsu manages to use Dragon Force: Activating it usually allows him to beat the tar out of the current Arc Villain, but due to the manner in which he has to activate it until the Tartaros arc and even then the aftereffects still happen (eating extremely potent sources of magical energy), this often leaves him completely and utterly exhausted afterwards and unable to really move. This nearly got him killed in the battle against Mard Geer's One-Winged Angel, who endured the beatdown and was about to smash him into paste on the ground, but luckily Gray was there to finish the job.
    • When King of the Flame Dragons Igneel fought against Black Dragon of the Apocalypse Acnologia in the Tartaros arc, he managed to tear off the Dragon King's arm in a Single-Stroke Battle, permanently crippling him from the looks of things. Acnologia tore a hole through Igneel's torso before killing him with his Breath Weapon in return. And all of this happened right in front of Natsu's eyes.
    • Gray was forced to partially transform himself into a Demon using his newly acquired (meaning he lacked experience) Devil Slayer powers to tank Mard Geer's Memento Mori curse. It worked, but about a year or so later he has lost control of the transformation. He becomes obsessed with destroying E.N.D. and doesn't care who he has to hurt or kill to do it. One of his new comrades in the Avatar Cult notes that the curse has stained his skin and his soul black. While it's revealed he was a mole the entire time, the mentioned side-effects are very much real and he had to get medical help to stave off the risks, and when he hits a boiling point during the Alvarez Empire arc it happens for real and he tries to kill Natsu (who he's learned is really E.N.D.) and is only barely shocked back to sanity.
    • In the Alvarez Empire arc, Sherria is able to live up to her God Slayer title by defeating DiMaria Yesta of the Spriggan 12, who channels the power of the God of Time, Chronos. However, in order to gain the power to defeat her, as her God Slayer magic simply wasn't strong enough to win at her current power, she needed to undergo the Third Origin spell from Ultear, which would grant her all the power she would ever gain in her life all at once at the cost of losing her magic afterwards. Worse, while beaten DiMaria recovers and is able to return to the war later on, though thankfully she runs afoul of Natsu's Superpowered Evil Side.
  • In Getter Robo Armageddon, the two Getter Teams pool the power of Shin Getter and Shin Dragon to form the Final Getter Tomahawk, destroying Cohen, Stinger, and what's left of Jupiter and its moons. However, doing so drained Shin Dragon's battery and blew off Shin Getter's arms. And then, the Negative Space Wedgie with teeth shows up...
  • Gundam
    • In Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Camille defeats Scirocco by crashing his waverider into Scirocco's cockpit and crushing his body. With his dying breath, Scirocco mentally attacks Camille and leaves him catatonic.
    Scirocco: "You may take my life, but I will take your soul!"
    • Eventually, he got better. Well, a little bit. Can't ever pilot again, but all it ever brought him was pain either way, right?
    • Averted in the movies, where Sirocco tries to pull a soul attack, but it visibly fails, and Camille manages to transform the Wave Rider back into Zeta Gundam. There's a certain feeling of triumph there, and game adaptations now follow through all the way to the transformation.
    • Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the third encounter with the Devil Gundam ends this way. In order to stop it, Domon finds he has to kill his brother Kyoshi who was at this point revealed to be Good All Along, and kill his mentor Scartwz. And the Devil Gundam gets rebuilt and returns again later.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: At the end of the first season, Mikazuki pushes his Gundam Barbatos's Alaya-Vijnana System to its limits fighting the Graze Ein, a Super Prototype. He ultimately emerges victorious, but after the battle, he suffers blindness in his right eye and paralysis in his right arm when disconnected from Barbatos.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury: At the end of the series, Suletta pushes the Permet Score beyond even Rank 8, unleashing a data storm that shuts down the Space Assembly League's Kill Sat but also causes the Calabarn, Aerial, Pharact and Schwartzette to disintegrate and allows Ericht to survive in a small keychain. However, the intense strain ravages her body. Three years later, she has to use crutches to walk and bears noticeable scars on her face.
  • Heavy Metal L-Gaim: What happened to L-Gaim Mk. II in its fight against the original Aug. Although the arm was ripped off.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, Netero nearly kills the Chimera Ant King Meruem by stopping his own heart to trigger the incredibly powerful bomb implanted in his own body. This desperate move only fails because two of Meruem's strongest minions sacrifice most of their power and body mass to restore him. Later, Gon utterly destroys Neferpitou, the second strongest Chimera Ant alive by forcefully aging himself to vastly increase his power. Said powerboost comes at the cost of a shortened lifespan and the possibility that Gon will never be able to use nen again. In a more literal example, Gon's right arm is torn off by zombie!Pitou when Gon lets his guard down thinking the battle was over after he crushed Pitou's head. Gon pins the monster down with his own ripped-off arm and finishes it off with a final "rock" attack that apparently leaves Gon on the brink of death. However, this is subverted when it's revealed the deadliest part about the bomb implanted in Netero is the poison that will kill everything that comes in contact with the bomb or people poisoned by it. That kills Meruem for good. Chapter 345 reveals that even after a Reality Warper saved his life, Gon still hasn't fully recovered. He cannot see or use Nen anymore.
  • Jonathan Joestar's apparent victory over Dio Brando in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure turned out to be anything but. Even as a disembodied head Dio mortally wounds Jonathan with a new attack. Jonathan only has enough strength left to ensure his wife Erina's safety and dies trying to take Dio down with him. After several decades, Dio returns from the bottom of the sea in Part III after attaching himself to Jonathan's body and boasting a new power that makes his vampiric abilities seem like parlor tricks in comparison. It's up to Jonathan's great-great-grandson Jotaro to put Dio down for good. Part VI reveals that even this didn't stop Dio's legacy.
    • In Golden Wind, a Heroic Sacrifice is required to defeat Chariot Requiem. Justified in that Chariot Requiem was created to keep the arrow away from Diavolo, and thus its weakness would naturally require doing something Diavolo would never, ever do.
  • This occurs at the end of Kill la Kill. After defeating Ragyo, Senketsu beings to unravel as a result of overloading himself with so many life-fibers. Rushing to get Ryuko back to Earth, he burns up on re-entry whilst shielding her.
  • Medaka Box: This happens in a few instances, often to Zenkichi. Zenkichi kicks Oudo off of a building!only to find that it has no effect. Later he does a Heroic Sacrifice to try and kill Kumagawa. It works, but Kumagawa's reality warper abilities just revive him, anyway.
  • Before the beginning of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Tohru leads a solo assault on the gods in order to end the war between humans and dragons and be free of her responsibilities to the Chaos Faction. It only ended with her getting mortally wounded, and in the position Kobayashi found her in.
  • Played with in My Hero Academia: When Izuku first uses his new quirk "One For All", he literally breaks his arm punching out a giant robot (plus his legs after jumping in the air to punch out said robot) since his body wasn't fully prepared for the attack's overwhelming power. Eventually, his use of "One For All" leaves his hand permanently disfigured, with doctors believing that continued use would eventually leave him completely unable to use his arms.
    • All Might vs All for One. Two Cthulhus punching out each other and breaking their own arms for it. In their encounter before the series started, All for One crippled All Might that severely limited his hero career at the cost of everything above his nose and being left on life support. In the series proper, All for One managed to finally end All Might's hero career, but he lost the fight, was arrested and imprisoned in a special prison.
  • Naruto:
    • The titular character gets in a fight with Kabuto. Naruto, being heavily outclassed, takes a pounding for most of the fight, with him only managing to land one hit on Kabuto, though it came in the form of the Rasengan. The attack did a lot of damage, but Kabuto almost killed Naruto by severing some of his heartstrings, which would have killed him if Tsunade hadn't saved him, and Kabuto managed to get back on his feet to help Orochimaru. Naruto did successfully get Kabuto to back off, snapped Tsunade out of her Heroic BSoD, and won a bet she made with him stating that he couldn't master the Rasengan.
    • Villainous example in Naruto's fight with Pain. Seeing Hinata hurt prompts Naruto to lose more control and draw on more of the Kyuubi's power than he ever has before, also losing control of himself to it. Pain attempts a stronger version of Shinra Tensei to stop him, but the possessed Naruto just breaks free while drawing even more power, and the Kyuubi nearly convinces him to break the seal and let him free. The trope is only narrowly averted by vision of the Fourth Hokage that he set up in case of such an event, which allowed Naruto to regain control.
    • Guy breaks his leg kicking out Madara so hard that the latter's torso is blown open. His body also starts falling apart because he was using the Eighth Gate, and Madara's Healing Factor simply starts fixing the damage. Naruto saved him from guaranteed death, but his leg was so far beyond repair (havig partially crumbled away as it turned to ash, even) that he remains crippled.
  • Asuka feels the full weight of this trope after defeating the SEELE invaders and the Eva Series in End of Evangelion. The last shot of her half-devoured mecha juxtaposes it with the regenerated Eva Series joining Shinji's Instant Runes, heralding The End of the World as We Know It. Technically, Shinji Broke His Mind Punching Out 15 Cthulhi.
  • One Piece:
    • During the Skypeia arc, the Badass Normal Skypeian, Wiper, goes one-on-one with God Eneru. After a tense fight, Wyper manages to kill Eneru by using the Reject Dial, at the cost of severe damage to his own body. Unfortunately for Wiper, Eneru's electric Devil Fruit immediately acts like a Magical Defibrillator, restarting the tyrant's heart. Sorry, Wiper, looks like killing him once just isn't enough.
    • Later on, Luffy faces Arc Villain Magellan, who's coated in an armor of deadly poison. Luffy manages to get some hits in, but ultimately he isn't strong enough to keep Magellan down and succumbs to the poison.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Hunter J is the best, most ruthless Bounty Hunter of the world, and she always managed to get the job done or at the very least get away scot-free: in the end, she was hired by Team Galactic to capture Azelf, Mesprit, and Uxie, three Legendary Pokemon, and succeeded. However, her flying ship was hit a few minutes later by their Future Sight, sinking it into Lake Valor and then exploding, (seemingly) killing her and her crew.
  • A number of characters in the Pretty Cure franchise are hit with this:
    • Mepple and Mipple of Futari wa Pretty Cure fall into a deep sleep that's said to last a thousand years after Nagisa and Honoka defeat the Big Bad. It only lasts until the next week in Futari wa Pretty Cure MaX Heart.
    • HeartCatch Pretty Cure! does this twice in the backstory. It's revealed that Kaoruko lost her powers as Cure Flower when she used so much energy from the Heartcatch Mirage to stop Dune, it shattered her Heart Perfume device. And Yuri is taken out of the fight for 3/4ths of the series when she uses her Pretty Cure Seed to block the Dark Precure's attack, the strain shattering it into two halves.
    • Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3 has all the girls lose their transformation devices to Black Hole, force them to use the MacGuffin to repower them and defeat Black Hole, then lose their powers and companions. For all of a few minutes on-screen.
    • Smile PreCure! seemed to live off of this...
  • In Princess Mononoke, a giant boar-demon attacks an Emishi village and the protagonist, Ashitaka, is forced to fight and kill him. In the struggle, Ashitaka receives a curse on his right arm, which grants him superhuman strength but will eventually kill him. Indeed, the main point of the movie is that bad things happen when you kill a god. For example, Lady Eboshi, trying to create a new home for her people, decided to kill the boar god, but unfortunately, she did it by poisoning him, leading him to degenerate to the Boar-demon that attacked the Emishi village, as well as to the boar-demon brother to seek revenge. Later Eboshi decapitated the Deer-god (which is much more godlike than the other animal spirits in the movie), and as a result, the deer god goes One-Winged Angel and nearly kills everyone present there, and Eboshi has her arm bitten off by the head of another animal god.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Slow-acting, but inevitable. If you gain the power to fight Witches, you will eventually become a Witch assuming you don't die fighting first. Played straight in one timeline, to world-ending proportions, averted in another Mercy Kill, and invoked in a third. This trope is the driving reason for the plot of Homura's entire story arc.
  • In perhaps a literal example, in Rurouni Kenshin, Sanosuke punches Shishio so hard that he shatters all the bones in his hands. Shishio is temporarily inconvenienced, and answers by punching Sano back, and defeating him instantly.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Prior to the series, Queen Serenity's battle with the series' first Big Bad Queen Metallia, where the most she can do is seal Metallia away and dies doing so, and while not all the details are given, Metallia apparently managed to kill the rest of the Senshi as well. Metallia's marks another case of this, with everyone but Usagi dying before she's finally killed in the manga, though Usagi undoes the damage of her rampage. The anime also ends in this way, with the Senshi dying fighting the DD Girls, Mamoru dying saving Usagi from Beryl, and Usagi as she dies from using the Silver Crystal to destroy Metallia, but she manages to revive herself and everyone else with it.
    • The third story arc, both versions when Sailor Saturn stops Pharaoh 90 from bringing about The End of the World as We Know It, using her powers causes her to die and she only makes it back because Usagi saves her.
    • The manga ends this way. Eternal Sailor Moon does a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent the Anthropomorphic Personification of Chaos from rising. After she gets better, we're told that Chaos was not completely destroyed. Sailor Cosmos confirms that Chaos will be reborn as a Sailor Senshi itself and that it will instigate a huge cosmic war that will tear the galaxy apart and that the damage and sacrifice necessary to destroy it will be just as bad as losing the war. While Cosmos traveled to the past to prevent its rebirth, she realized that Chaos' rise was inevitable and that there WAS no Third Option. Oddly the characters don't seem too perturbed by the bleak future that awaits them, preferring to enjoy their happy present lives taking comfort that life will always go on even if the galaxy is destroyed by war. To be fair, given that Cosmos's plan to stop Chaos would kill the galaxy, it's understandable that they were all right with their win.
  • In Slayers Amelia tried to punch out the Physical God Ruby Eye Shabranigdu but broke her arm instead. And there's the Dangerous Forbidden Technique Lina often relies on to defeat such demon lords with. Each use risks destroying the universe if executed poorly ( by attracting the attention of The Lord of Nightmares, leaving the fate of the entire universe to the erratic whims of its now cognizant Demiurge,) like when Lina was swallowed up mind, body, and soul to fuel it, only returning through a mixture of sheer luck and (in the anime) The Power of Love.
  • In So I'm a Spider, So What?, Ariel faces off against Potimas's most powerful anti-god weapon, which by all rights should kill her with ease. She utilizes a Virtue Skill to destroy it at the cost of reducing her remaining lifespan to a year and losing the ability to fight.
  • Soul Eater has this as the backstory with Lord Shinigami's battle with Asura. Lord Shinigami defeated Asura, skinned him alive, and used his skin to make a bag to seal him in, and then anchored his soul into a firm location to suppress Asura's influence and keep him sealed. As a consequence, this forced him into a heroic example of Orcus on His Throne since he could leave to deal with any other menaces that threatened the world, which hit especially bad in the present when Asura is released by Medusa and escapes outside of where Lord Shinigami can move. The Final Battle against Asura plays this trope twice. First when Crona tries to devour his soul. She seemingly succeeds, but then later he just breaks and berates her for her ignorance. The protagonists try fighting Asura, but no shakes off everything they throw at him and in the end, after a reveal that Asura is in fact an embodiment of fear and can never die as long as fear exists (hence why Lord Shinigami didn't kill him), the most that can be done is reducing him back to a Sealed Evil in a Can, at the cost of Crona's life, whom Maka spent most of the series trying to save.
  • Forms the backstory of Transformers: Cybertron: the destruction of Unicron in the previous series had the side effect of creating an unholy abomination of a black hole that unless stopped using the series' Plot Coupons will annihilate the entire universe, possibly even the multiverse.
  • In WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us? the main character eventually comes face to face with Shiantor the Lamenting First Beast. Against all odds, he manages to kill the Beast’s formerly human host; an action that leaves its essence very much intact. Unfortunately for the main character, it only needs to find another human host in order to revive itself, which just so happens to be poor Willem. Faced with the prospect of becoming an Eldritch Abomination he tries to end things before it’s too late. In this regard he’s only partially successful and only succeeds in getting both of them sealed away.
  • This ends up happening to Jaden during his final duel with Yubel in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX; thanks to the nature of Yubel's monster effect, each time Jaden destroys (or forces Yubel to destroy) her copy, it merely evolves into a stronger version of itself. Eventually, Yubel becomes so powerful from Jaden's attempts to stop her, that the only way he could take her out is to intercept a Fusion Dance attempt of hers that would've resulted in The End of the World as We Know It and use it to scrub the duel prematurely by fusing his soul with Yubel's, having the monster in his head for all eternity. It's not that bad; since Yubel was purged of the Light of Destruction when she and Judai got fused and had all her Yandere urges satisfied, she calms down significantly and becomes friendly, if not a Deadpan Snarker.

    Comic Books 
  • Arawn: Owen manages to destroy the godlike demon spawned from the Cauldron of Blood, who even the pantheon of gods had trouble dealing with, by destroying the Cauldron itself with Math's Sun Axe. He ends up dying in the resulting explosion but is later resurrected by Arawn.
  • ''Baffling Mysteries #11 features Mrs. Brock, a wealthy widow who sought a nobleman for her daughter to wed, only to discover, too late, that both the suitor she had lined up and his father were vampires—the latter of whom she had set free when she stopped a staking ceremony earlier. After seeing her chauffeur devoured in front of her, Mrs. Brock and her daughter flee and are cornered, but she spots a pair of swords on the wall and, remembering the villagers saying that the vampire must be stabbed through the heart, finds the will to kill both of the monstrous creatures. Alas, the horrors of her experience turn Mrs. Brock into a hopelessly insane, blood-crazed madwoman, who ends up in an asylum.
  • Batman:
    • An almost literal example in Batman: Hush, when trying to survive against a Brainwashed and Crazy Superman, even with his Kryptonite ring, Batman could land a few punches on Superman before not being able to punch him anymore because impacts broke every bone in his hand.
    • Another occasion in A Death in the Family. The Joker has just killed Robin, and Superman is withholding information from Batman. Batman angrily punches Superman. Given the dark tone of the story, what happens next is actually pretty funny.
      Superman: (Unfazed) Feel better now?
      Batman: (Clutching his fist) I think I broke a couple of knuckles!
      Superman: No, they're just badly bruised. You're lucky I rolled with that punch. You could've crippled yourself.
    • In Final Crisis Batman shot Darkseid with a Radion bullet, mortally wounding him. The dying God of Evil inflicted the Omega Sanction on Batman trapping him in a cycle of death and rebirth into horrible lives and accelerated the universe's decay which his rebirth started out of spite.
  • Black Hammer: In the backstory, the heroes managed to kill the world-destroying Anti-God after a long and difficult battle with many casualties. Unfortunately, killing him upset the Balance Between Good and Evil, which the universe tried to correct by bringing him back to life. To prevent this, the heroes who defeated him were forced to restore the balance by exiling themselves to another dimension. They can never go home again, lest Anti-God return and destroy everything.
  • Supergirl trashed the Anti-Monitor during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but he took her out. She died and her existence was erased from the memory collective of the universe... for a while.
  • The Death of Superman saw Superman and Doomsday both kill themselves punching out each other. They both eventually got better, with Superman thankfully being the one who recovered faster.
  • The only way for Dr. Strange to beat Shuma-Gorath on his home turf was to tap into the demon's power source. Using Shuma's power started to make him become another Shuma-Gorath though and "killing" Shuma only sped up the process, so Strange had to commit suicide. Luckily someone else was able to save the Doctor, which was good a while later when we learn Shuma wasn't permanently dead.
  • Doomsday Clock: In Issue #9, the Justice League and Earth's other heroes finally confront Dr. Manhattan. After he effortlessly shrugs off the first volley, they unleash all their assembled firepower on him and seemingly obliterate him... at which point he simply reforms himself like usual and blasts them all into unconsciousness.
  • One Exiles arc features Galactus attacking earth, and for once he's actually at full strength rather than nearly dying from starvation. Eventually team powerhouse Thunderbird manages to break Galactus' skin and insert a device specifically made by that earth's Reed Richards to hurt the creature. Thunderbird is left brain-dead from the shockwave though he does manage to get Galactus to flee.
  • In the finale of The Great Darkness Saga, Darkseid grows tired of the Legion of Super-Heroes' interference, so he takes all Legionnaires out by making their worst nightmares real. Superboy and Supergirl engage him straight after, but the former gets instantly blasted back to the past, and the latter nearly gets her head crushed.
    Darkseid: So... There is more to these mortals than superficial evidence admits. Very well... If they would undo the deeds of gods, they must suffer as do the damned...
  • Hellboy: Although Hellboy gets an epic battle with the Ogdru Jahad in the climax of the original series, he is left so exhausted a single sucker-punch from a ghost is enough to kill him and drag his soul to Hell. On top of that, the Osiris Club notes that what he was fighting was only a small part of the Dragon, as it was mostly still imprisoned; admittedly, Hellboy had managed to injure the true Ogdru Jahad, and it's not even clear if he was truly killed or just imprisoned in Hell.
  • In Hellblazer, this is the only way the only kind of win John Constantine ever pulls off. To get rid of this issue's monster, chances are either someone he loves has to die, or his actions set up an even greater problem to be dealt with at a later date.
  • The Avengers (Jonathan Hickman): The Multiverse Exploration Team. They manage to permanently kill two Beyonders, a huge accomplishment given how powerful Beyonders are. But all of the team except Thor and Hyperion die in the process, with Thor losing an arm and Hyperion having his right eye gouged out. And then the rest of the Beyonders come swarming out to finish them off. Thor and Hyperion realize that there's no way in hell they'll win or escape, so they settle for just charging into battle and trying to take out as many Beyonders as they can before they're killed.
  • In The Korvac Saga, Korvac fights the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy at once and crushes all of them easily.
  • Played straight literally in Les Légendaires, where Jadina attempts to punch Anathos. Anathos stops her attack with one finger, and causes her arm to break in the process. Even worst, he mentioned she is lucky he needed her alive at that point because otherwise he would have let her kill herself punching him. Then immediately subverted when Jadina Out-Gambits him. And before this, Danael already suffered a case of The Virus against Anathos when coming up with a scheme to prevent him from reincarnating into Shimy, only to serve as the host instead of her.
  • The Mighty Thor:
    • Thor managed to slay the Midgard Serpent — a giant dragon among giant dragons — with a massive hammer blow to the head. He was already in constant pain and obliged to wear a full-body armor suit for support due to a curse by the goddess of death, but the death blow reduced him to a pulped (yet still living) mass of flesh contained within said armor. Given he was prophesied to die after killing the Midgard Serpent, as per Norse Mythology; this is actually a plus.
    • A more graphic example was when he hit an invulnerable Viking named Herald Jaekelson so hard it nearly tore his hands off.
    • There are many times in the comics where Thor managed to break his hammer Mjölnir while fighting some of his most powerful enemies, usually by utilizing the Odinforce. One example is when he tried to fight Exitar, the largest Celestial, in one of his older comics and shatters his Mjolnir into pieces trying to break into its skull.
    • In Fear Itself, Thor's battle against his Evil Uncle Cul Borson aka the Serpent aka the Norse god of fear — who turned out to be the true serpent destined to kill him — ends in a Mutual Kill. He gets better, as always.
  • In My Little Pony Micro Series Issue #2 the Sonic Double Rainboom certainly defeats the gremlins, but completely paralyzes Dash's wings for two months.
  • What If... The Punisher Had Killed Spider-Man? saw The Punisher successfully kill Spider-Man. Not only does he realize he killed an innocent man, but Spider Man's many, many allies among New York's superhero community come after the Punisher to avenge his death, forcing him to go into hiding, admitting that "I was out of my league and out of my weight class." Worse, he finds Spider-Man's enemies throwing a party to thank him. Punisher makes an effort to hunt down and kill all the villains who have been left to run free without Spider-Man to stop them (especially the Jackal, who had tricked him into targeting Spider-Man in the first place), but in the end, his efforts led him to get gunned down by the police.
  • In the Spider-Man storyline "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" Spider-Man's second fight with the Juggernaut goes like this. Struggling to find a way to hurt him, Spidey tries ramming a tanker truck into him only to find it just made him angry. Ultimately Spider-Man manages to win the fight by tricking Juggernaut into a load of cement, but due to how Juggernaut's powers work (he doesn't need to eat, drink, sleep, or even breathe), Juggy eventually just dug his way out. Keeping the latter part of the trope from being played straight, Spidey's confrontations with the Juggernaut after that were rare and handled much differently; in the most recent one, Spidey simply gave him what he wanted so he'd go away.
  • The Transformers (Marvel): At the climax, Circuit-Breaker, a.k.a. Josie Beller attacked Unicron with all her power, paralyzing him long enough for Optimus Prime to destroy him with the Creation Matrix. Sadly, however, Beller was left catatonic as a result.
  • During Underworld Unleashed, Neron allowed any villain to leave if they didn't want to trade their soul for power. Mongul made the mistake of also trying to attack him. Neron promptly snaps his neck.
  • In the Wonder Woman Vol 1 storyline Judgment In Infinity, several soldiers fire at the Adjudicator when he first appears, and they are immediately blasted into oblivion. When Wonder Woman tries to lasso him, he swats her away, and she only survives his blow because she is extremely tough.

    Comic Strips 
  • Played for Laughs in one Peanuts strip; after the Kite Eating tree grabs his kite, Charlie Brown gets angry and threatens to kick it in the stomach. Then he does, only to find out the hard way that "these Kite Eating Trees have hard stomachs..."

    Fan Works 
  • In the Better Bones AU:
    • Feathertail manages to kill the Destroyer Deity One-eye's most recent incarnation, but not only does she die in the process but a Clan cat killing him ensued his next incarnation will terrorize the Clans, or at least the forest where they once lived, instead of the Tribe.
    • Speckletail takes down a human's bulldozer, but both dies and incurs the humans' wrath as they go out to catch cats.
  • In Everqueen, it is mentioned that after imprisoning the Void Dragon, the Emperor spent ten thousand years with Resurrective Immortality, but very limited powers aside from that.
  • Feralnette AU: During the Enough Rope arc, Marinette manages to hold onto an akumatizing butterfly for several minutes, without succumbing to its influence, giving Hawkmoth A Taste Of His Own Medicine by giving him a Breaking Speech so effective he has a traumatic flashback — one she witnesses by proxy. However, this ordeal leaves her with a massive headache, completely unable to move afterwards.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time (DragonRand100), The dragon Volvalgia appears as an ally to the main character, Link, and attacks Ganondorf in a fierce rage in order to save the hero. Though Link escapes, Volvalgia finds that his attacks are not able to damage Ganondorf. He finds himself tortured until Ganondorf controls his mind, turning him though not before he buys Link enough time to make it into Castletown. As the battle against Ganondorf ends, he ends up transformed into a vessel for his Ganondorf's destruction.
  • A very literal example in the Lucifer/Chilling Adventures of Sabrina crossover Morningstar Family Values, when Sabrina suffers serious damage to her left arm after fending off an attack by the Goddess, who was attempting to kill her Nephilm granddaughter (Lucifer being Sabrina's biological father as he took part in an orgy with her parents).
  • Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!: Izuku meets the U.A's Big Three during his first week. Mirio Togata quickly takes an interest in him and challenges him to a sparring match to test their skills. At first, Izuku is unable to do anything to Mirio since he just phases through all of his attacks, but the moment Mirio gets an opening and tries to deliver a punch, he gets a full dose of Izuku's Kryptonian Nigh-Invulnerability, breaking his entire arm in the process.
  • The Night Unfurls: Congratulations, Perdita! You are the first person to assassinate Sir Kyril, the Lord Executioner himself! Unfortunately, death is a mere setback for him, and once he respawns, he's out for your blood. Way to go, dude.
  • In the Pony POV Series:
    • During the Final Battle of the Generational Transitions Arc with Strife, Thistle Whistle headbutts her with all her might to interrupt one of her attacks. Her blow is enough to stun Strife for a moment... but broke every bone in Thistle Whistle's body and killed her instantly. However, this attack was enough to earn Strife's respect and Strife still holds her in high regard to this day, even constructing a statue of her in her realm.
    • A Child Prodigy made the Concept Killing Spear to try and kill life itself. She succeeded in murdering the demi-god of Sharing Love Cupid... but this ended up erasing every life Cupid and his Concept ever aided in making from existence along with him. While the nameless filly didn't care much for that, this trope comes in full force when Cupid's furious mother Venus descends from the spirit world and easily kills her in revenge before giving her a very harsh but well-deserved punishment. On top of this, Cupid's Concept would eventually be resurrected by fusing his Shadow of Existence with a mare named Lovestruck.
    • In general truly killing off a Concept will always end in this, as they will take the thing they represent with them along with everyone who was alive because of it.
  • Space to Breathe (Naruto): While Sakura and her teammates manage to take down the functionally immortal Hidan, the battle takes a severe toll: the only member left on their feet is their healer, Masato, who spends a solid week desperately fighting to keep his comatose companions alive. Hinata ultimately succumbs to their injuries despite his best efforts, and though they attempt to continue helping their comrades after their death by passing her eyes to Masato, this unintentionally leads to her father labeling him a bloodline thief, causing the whole team to go missing-nin.
  • The Worm fanfic Weaver Nine: After the heroes kill one of the most powerful beings in the setting, the defeated villain uses their last moments to unleash an apocalyptic-level attack that destroys an entire city and wipes out most of the attackers.
  • With This Ring: Several years before the story proper, John Constantine gathered up his friends and allies, and managed to stop an evil cult from summoning an Eldritch Abomination; at the cost of one of their number being driven insane, and several of them dying. Including Zatanna's mother. Zatara's never forgiven him for getting her involved.

    Film — Animated 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup loses half his left leg in the process of defeating the humungous dragon at the end.
  • The Secret of NIMH: Mrs. Brisby learns that the Rats of NIMH often need to drug up the residential Farm Cat Dragon whenever they are working on a major project that takes them out of the Rosebush, by placing a sleeping draught into his supper dish. When Mrs. Brisby arrives at the Rosebush seeking an audience with Nicodemus: she finds Dragon struggling to stay awake, and later on Mr. Ages walking around with a cast on his right leg. Mr. Ages volunteered to drug Dragon that day, but on his way back to the hole he crawled up into the farmhouse from, he broke his leg.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The third film in the Amityville series has the haunted house getting destroyed, though this fails to stop the evil, with it just living on in the form of mundane objects like lamps and clocks salvaged from the rubble, which allows the evil to spread out all over the country and establish "new homes" when people obtain the junk.
  • John Carpenter's entire "Apocalypse Trilogy":
    • In The Thing the characters are able to make a stand against the monster, but by the time they're done all but two are dead, and the survivors are likely to freeze to death. It's also not entirely clear if they actually succeeded in destroying the Thing or if they've only temporarily contained it, and there is a faint possibility one of the two survivors could be a Thing. To make things even darker there's an alternate ending where a dog is seen running away from the ruins of the camp, implying that the thing escaped, and Macready's efforts were for nothing.
    • Prince of Darkness: The Eldritch Abomination is prevented from bringing something even worse into our world and trapped in another dimension, but at the cost of the Love Interest's life, along with most of the rest of the cast. The final scenes also hint that it will find a way back. The final scene has the main character reaching for a mirror, but we don't see what happens next.
    • In the Mouth of Madness: Poor John Trent tries again and again to punch out Cthulhu, but he just doesn't stand a chance. He constantly tries to find ways to outwit mad writer Sutter Kane, but the latter constantly remains one step ahead. Trent tries to burn the manuscript for an insanity-inducing novel? Too bad, another one shows up in the mail. He tries to warn the publisher to keep the novel from coming out? He already delivered the manuscript, the book's been selling like hotcakes, and there's a movie about to come out.
  • In The Astronaut's Wife — a Recycled In Space version of Rosemary's Baby — the heroine tricks the alien possessing her husband by acting like she's going to commit suicide through a variation — an awesome variation — on the Electrified Bathtub, only to electrocute him instead. Unfortunately, the alien manages to flee her husband's body and possess her instead, for a Downer Ending.
  • In Avengers: Endgame The Hulk has his right arm ravaged using the newly built Infinity Gauntlet to restore those Thanos erased with The Snap, and still retains this injury as of The Stinger of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. A little bit later, Tony Stark gives his life to do away with Thanos and his army.
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this happens two times.
  • Damnatus. All the heroes give their lives to try and stop G'guor, an Eldar spirit accompanying them pulls a Thanatos Gambit, and inquisitor Lessus invokes exterminatus on the planet, but the outro voiceover implies that G'guor will still be back someday.
  • The 1998 film Fallen is about a demon that can leap from one body to another instantaneously. It ends with the lead character leading it into the middle of the woods, then poisoning himself before shooting the demon's current host. Cut to a nearby cat, and the narration picks up again: "Oh! You forgot something, didn't you? Back at the start, I said I was going to tell you about the time I almost died. [chuckles] Be seeing you."
  • Occurs in nearly every successful attempt to stop Godzilla:
    • In Mothra vs. Godzilla, Godzilla's first fight with Mothra left the adult Mothra dead before the larva sealed itself off in a cocoon, and even that wasn't enough to stop him forever. The only thing keeping this trope from being played entirely straight is that Godzilla ends up pulling a Heel–Face Turn in the later movies.
    • Godzilla vs. Biollante is a case of this being played for Godzilla himself. He manages to kill Biollante, but the anti-nuclear bacteria he's infected with starts acting up so much that he has to return to the sea and can't leave.
    • In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, the cyborg pilot of Mecha-King Ghidorah isn't able to kill Godzilla and while she survives, Mecha-King Ghidorah is wrecked by Godzilla when it drags him out to sea, meaning all the fight did was temporarily slow him down before he returned for another attack.
    • Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth has both Mothra and her Evil Counterpart Battra teaming up against Godzilla. They manage to defeat him, but all they really do is drag him out to sea again where Godzilla kills Battra, meaning in the future Mothra would have to face him alone. She's not strong enough to stop him by herself, though Mothra didn't appear in the later films in this series as it is.
    • In Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, the humans built Humongous Mecha MOUGERA to stop Kaiju attacks. It fails completely in its first fight with Space Godzilla. The second fight, it manages to destroy the crystals on his shoulders, which prompts him to wreck the thing so badly that the crew is forced to abandon it. Godzilla later finishes the job and completely destroys the robot after killing Space Godzilla.
    • In Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, humans try to kill Godzilla using a Kill Sat that fires an Unrealistic Black Hole. Not only does this manage to do little more than inconvenience him, it causes a horde of giant insects to appear, including the titular Megagerius. The only thing that stopped them was Godzilla himself. The humans try the weapon again and it apparently kills him, up until the last scene of the movie, where we hear him roar again indicating he survived.
    • Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack!, has all three of the Guardian monsters that were meant to stop die trying. Some quick acting by humans manages to seemingly kill him, but his heart survives and starts to regenerate his body, meaning he'll return, and this time there won't be any Kaiju to stand in his way.
    • Godzilla: Final Wars, a rare case of this not involving Godzilla. Instead it's when Mothra fights Gigan at the climax of the movie. Mothra manages to keep Gigan out of Godzilla's fight with Monster X, but he injures her fatally before she can kill him.
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): The US military firing their Oxygen Destroyer at Godzilla and Ghidorah in an attempt to kill the latter and Rodan manages to cripple Godzilla (though it doesn't kill him), but Ghidorah is completely unaffected due to his literal Bizarre Alien Biology, and Ghidorah immediately proves that without a benevolent Alpha Titan like Godzilla around to keep him in check, there's absolutely nothing defending humanity and the world from the likes of Ghidorah inflicting an extinction event (especially bad in Ghidorah's case, since he's distinctly the worst of the worst among malevolent Titans and he's an invasive alien who's liable to wipe out all non-Titan multicellular life). As for Godzilla, the human race are lucky once he's healed that he seems to be letting the military's act with the Oxygen Destroyer go for the time being, and that Mothra has no interest in vengeance.
    • Godzilla vs. Kong: Kong gains an axe made from the bones and fin of Godzilla's species that absorbs energy from Godzilla's atomic breath. Using this in a clash with Godzilla leads to a massive burst of energy that knocks Godzilla off his feet and seemingly defeats him, with Kong's human allies believing the ape has won. Right afterwards it turns that Godzilla wasn't beaten yet, and as Kong jumped onto his back to strangle, he turns out to be far from beaten as he threw Kong off and inflicted a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on the ape. Kong only survives because Godzilla chose to spare his life. Godzilla himself is the wrong end of this trope because his fight with Kong gave time for Mechagodzilla to be fueled and ready to face him, leaving the exhausted Godzilla up against a much stronger enemy. Mechagodzilla would have killed him, if not, ironically enough, for Kong getting involved in the fight.
  • In the remake of The Haunting (1999), Elinor becomes a Christ-like figure, confronts the villainous ghost, Hugh Crane who has transformed into a twenty-foot, roaring, Witch-King of Angmar lookalike and defeats him with The Power of Love, banishing him through the Gates of Hell which are conveniently placed in his hallway. Don't ask. The spirits imprisoned within the house are released and Elinor conveniently dies. It's like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon.
  • At the end of Predator 2, Harrigan kills the Predator, only to immediately face several more Predators that materialize in front of him. However, the trope is averted in that the others don't want revenge; on the contrary, they give Harrigan a gift and send him on his way.
  • Rocky IV ends on a happy note, as Rocky defeats the superhuman Soviet boxer Ivan Drago and avenges his friend Apollo Creed. In Rocky V, however, we learn that Balboa's gone bankrupt thanks to a shady accountant. Rocky tries to take another title fight to earn money, but the match with Drago gave him career-ending brain damage.
  • Silent Hill: At the end, Rose finally rescues her daughter and defeats the Order by way of letting Dark Alessa have her Roaring Rampage of Revenge. However, when they leave Silent Hill, they're still stuck in the Fog World, and the movie ends with both them and her husband in their house at the same time, in two worlds, unable to communicate except for a single static-laden voicemail. In the sequel, it turns out that in the interim she somehow finds a way to get her daughter back to the real world, but not herself. Too bad for her, the Order was able to do the same thing with Vincent, thus setting up the events where Dark Alessa and the powers of the Order are defeated for good, Pyramid Head pulls a quasi Heel–Face Turn, and Heather, her dad, and Vincent all get to go home, just as the permanent ash fall is coming to an end. They pass a prison bus heading into the town's general area, just as it starts to rain and the creepy music kicks up again, meaning that all they did was change who the instigators and victims were going to be.
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Kirk manages to defeat Kurge and avenge everyone the villain has hurt (and most importantly, find Spock) but he has to destroy The Enterprise to do it all. His brief, sad expression as he watches it burn up says it all.
  • The 2011 adaptation of The Whisperer in Darkness expands on the ending by having Wilmarth discover the Mi-Go performing a ritual that will open a portal and allow for a mass invasion. He succeeds in preventing said invasion, though most likely only temporarily. He is also unable to escape from the Mi-Go, with the final scene revealing his brain has been removed and placed into a jar for transport.
  • In X-Men: Apocalypse, it's almost a literal case if not for the limb broken being the lower one. Quicksilver uses his Super-Speed to deliver some punches on Apocalypse. Then En Sabah Nur catches on and traps his foot to the ground, and it takes a while to get Peter free. As a result, Peter's leg is later shown in a cast.
  • Kong: Skull Island, Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard develops a vendetta against Kong vows to kill him. He is warned about this trope as Kong is the only thing keeping giant carnivores called Skullcrawlers in check, but only makes a weak claim he will deal with the Skullcrawlers after killing Kong. Surprisingly his plan to kill Kong comes close to succeeding, only being stopped by the rest of the humans preventing Packard from setting off explosives to finish Kong. Packard's attack on Kong however woke up the largest Skullcrawler, and as the humans could barely survive against a smaller one they have to flee. Packard refuses and is crushed by Kong. The only reason the surviving characters aren't all killed by the Skullcrawler is that Kong himself saved them.

  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy book Ptolemy's Gate, Nathaniel uses Gladstone's Staff to destroy Nouda, but he did so by exploding the staff at point-blank range, ending in mutual kill.
  • Beowulf: Beowulf manages to kill the dragon and save Geatland, but is bitten by the dragon in the process, and is killed by the dragon's venom shortly after.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Touma is up against Othinus, and manages to destroy Gungnir when she throws it at him. Gungnir is a weapon which, when thrown, destroys the entire universe as a side effect. In a literal example of this trope, Touma breaks two of his fingers doing so. However, he ultimately fails to defeat Othinus, as she draws on another source of power and then mortally wounds him. He only wins thanks to talking Othinus into a Heel–Face Turn.
  • In The Chronicles of Prydain book The Black Cauldron, the only way to destroy the eponymous Artifact of Doom is for someone to willingly throw himself/herself into the Cauldron, an act that would kill that person as well. Prince Ellidyr, who for most of the book was a Prince Charmless, saves the day by making the sacrifice.
  • The first arc of the Deathstalker series ends with the protagonist delaying the Recreated long enough for them to be restored to their true forms. However, the stress of doing so leaves him too exhausted to return to his point of origin or even fight effectively. Instead, a man who destroyed countless armies is murdered by a pack of half-mad drug addicts, far from friends and allies. They even took his boots.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In Cold Days has a situation of the weaker of two god-tier beings fighting her powerful mother. Winter Lady Maeve is facing down her mother Winter Queen Mab. Maeve, having been corrupted by an Eldritch Abomination working from Outside Reality, believes she has out-gambitted her mother. Mab cannot bring herself to directly kill Maeve because Mab, for all her drive to protect reality at any cost, cannot kill her daughter. Maeve gains a "victory" in killing Summer Lady Lily, whose mantle then possesses Maeve's twin sister Sarissa, who could have succeeded Maeve if Maeve was killed. Maeve then gloats about the dangers of killing her with no other backup. Her mantle would travel to the next closest person touched by Winter and that person would be ineffective at best or at worst corrupted agent like Maeve is now, inhibiting Mab's plans for the coming great war. Maeve then turns to taunt her mother's inability to act by seeking to kill Harry Dresden. Maeve is mistaken, having missed the fact that Harry's fairy godmother and handmaiden to Mab has been training Harry's former apprentice for over a year, and by threatening to kill Harry, finger on the trigger, Mab needs only break the bindings on Karrin Murphy with the twitch of a finger so the former police detective can grab her ankle holster and fire two rounds into Maeve's head, killing her, and making Molly her replacement.
    • The short story "Cold Case" has one of these where it is the villains who suffer the horrible fate. Molly Carpenter, now Winter Lady, is holding back as she attacks these worshippers of a Cthulu-like entity so her ally can save the kidnapped children. She is eventually caught and bound by the demon-infected humans, who plan to use her powerful blood to awaken their sleeping god. She then announces her name and title, and unleashes icy hell upon them.
  • Fate of the Jedi: In the finale, it takes a massive, full-scale, three-pronged simultaneous assault on Abeloth to bring her down — a physical attack on her avatar on Coruscant by Saba and the assembled forces of the Jedi Coalition, another on her second avatar on her own planet by Ben and Vestara, and a mental attack on her spirit in the astral realm by Luke and Darth Krayt. This threeway battle is hugely difficult and costly, with the last in particular leaving Luke and Krayt both near-crippled by the spiritual and physical wounds inflicted… and it's still not enough to actually kill Abeloth. The heroes have successfully banished her for now, but it becomes abundantly clear that she's still alive and is simply reconstituting herself for a second assault on the mortal world. The series ends with the Jedi Coalition beginning a search for the Dagger of Mortis, which might just be the only extant thing in the galaxy that can kill Abeloth for good, and Luke fears even that might not be enough if they don't unite everyone against her.
  • Forgotten Realms: In the first book of The Finder's Stone Trilogy, the Abomination of Moander is the avatar of an eldritch god of rot and decay. The red dragon Mist manages to kill the Abomination with her fiery breath, but the flames ignite the methane within its body, and it explodes right in her face, killing her too.
  • The Goosebumps book How to Kill a Monster ends with the heroes captured by the monster, even after their attempts at killing it by making it fall through the stairs and poisoning it. Said monster is allergic to humans, and keels over dead after merely licking one. Unfortunately, the monster's friends are pissed off after this. Cue the terror, as the book ends with the heroes alone, far away from town, and in a marsh filled with these hungry, soon-to-awaken creatures. Hopefully the other monsters are allergic to humans too.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry's origin story goes both ways. Voldemort as Cthulhu: One-year-old Harry survives Voldemort's attack, but both his parents had to die in the process, Voldemort is left alive as a wandering spirit with a big grudge against Harry, and Harry is now a Horcrux, carrying a piece of Voldemort's soul around with him. The Power of Love as Cthulhu: Voldemort kills both Harry's parents—but when he tries to kill the baby, the mother's sacrificial protection causes the Killing Curse to backfire, destroying Voldemort's body and rendering him The Disembodied until someone can forge him a new one.
    • In Chamber of Secrets, this almost happens to Harry: he kills the (blinded) Basilisk but is poisoned by its venom, and he would have died if it hadn't been for the restorative properties of phoenix tears. This is probably an homage to the multitude of mythological examples of this trope involving serpents and dragons (see Mythology below). Not to mention that Hermione was turned to stone halfway through the book trying to find the monster and the infamous Chamber of Secrets—she did, fortunately, and this ultimately helped Harry find it.
    • In Deathly Hallows:
      • Harry is forced to give his life to stop Voldemort (who, due to his extensive creation of Horcruxes, is now a borderline Humanoid Abomination). The reason for this sacrifice is that during his failed attempt on Harry's life, Voldy accidentally transferred a bit of his soul into Harry's body, turning Harry into a Horcrux. This means that as long as Harry is alive, Voldemort can't die either, because a bit of his soul will be tethered to Harry's body. The good news is that the reverse is also true: due to a complex bit of magic that occurred during Voldy's resurrection, Harry's soul is bound to Voldemort's body, allowing Harry to return to life without the soul fragment in him. This means that after Neville destroys the final Horcrux, Harry can finally kill Voldemort.
      • The Posthumous Character Regulus Arcturus Black, alluded to as "R.A.B." near the end of the previous book, combined this with Nice Job Breaking It, Hero after secretly defecting from Voldemort. Regulus stole another of Voldemort's Horcruxes and replaced it with a duplicate, but died at the hands of the Voodoo Zombies guarding the Horcrux and gave the original to his house-elf Kreacher to destroy. The problem was that Kreacher had no idea how to dispose of the thing. So he just left it lying around—only for Mundungus Fletcher to sell it while looting the Black family house after the owner Sirius, brother to Regulus, dies. So besides getting himself killed, all Regulus did was make it harder for the heroes to find the actual Horcrux.
      • In the fable "The Tale of the Three Brothers," the brothers escape a narrow brush with Death. Pretending to be impressed, Death grants each brother a wish. The oldest brother asks for a wand that can win any magic duel (to avoid Death through violence), and the middle brother asks for a stone that can bring people back from the dead (to basically cheat the system). It doesn't end well for either of them. The youngest brother averts this trope by requesting an Invisibility Cloak so he can avoid trouble. This peaceful, humble method of "hiding from Death" works. He lives to a ripe age and, when he feels his time has come, he "greets Death as an old friend."
  • In The Heroes of Olympus, the gods of Olympus are in no shape to fight a war against the giants precisely because they're still broke from fighting the Titans and Typhon.
  • H. P. Lovecraft:
    • In "The Dreams in the Witch House", a fellow manages to stop a servant of said Eldritch Abomination but is unable to save the child from sacrifice. Though he manages to stay sane throughout the ordeal, he is later killed by an Eldritch Abomination drilling itself out of his body as punishment, and his friend, seeing this, ends up in a mental institution.
    • This also happens in The Thing on the Doorstep.
    • Even the original The Call of Cthulhu had a textbook example of this. When the titular Thing attacks, a sailor rams him with a yacht, forcing him to retreat back to R'lyeh. The problem is, Cthulhu is still very much alive, having reformed soon after getting punched out. As for the sailor, not only does the entire ordeal push him off the deep end, but it's hinted that Cthulhu's cultists kill him soon afterward. Ironically, Cthulhu himself isn't even all that high on the power-scale of Lovecraftian abominations. Yes, he's bigger than a Deep One or Mi-Go, but he's really just a mouthpiece for the real cosmic-caliber deities like Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth.
    • Any kind of victory over Lovecraft's Eldritch Abominations, is, at best, delaying the inevitable. Which is the point of the expansion to the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, Delta Green. A task force, that doesn't officially exist, whose duty is to 'delay that inevitable' for another few years, and continually.
  • Journey to Chaos: This is the general problem with fighting reapers. Eric steals the divine authority one of them has over death in order to become immune to its magic, but he is still only mortal. He losses his advantage immediately after Reno Grade decides that he is a threat.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • In The Silmarillion:
      • When the Elf-Lord Fingolfin sees all his army defeated, he rides in despair to the very gates of Angband to defy and challenge Morgoth himself, inflicting several wounds to him. It doesn't end well. However, he did inflict wounds on Morgoth that would never heal.
      • The final battle of the First Age could qualify too, even if it's his equals that beat him down as the cost is too great and his presence still lingering. Sure, the hosts of the Valar have destroyed Morgoth's forces and he's captured and beaten, but the entire subcontinent of Beleriand ends up so damaged it breaks apart and gets swallowed by the sea. Though Morgoth is sealed beyond the Void, it turns out that one day he might escape leading to the Dagor Dagorath, the final battle that will destroy everything. And even ignoring that, Melkor essentially writes suffering and imperfection into fate before the world's creation, and after he becomes Morgoth pours his essence into Middle-Earth itself, so that even after his spirit gets banished, his presence remains; he is the evil that exists in the world.
    • In Beren and Lúthien
      • Finrod challenges Sauron to a magical singing duel, gets defeated, and thrown into a dungeon together with his companions.
      • Carcharoth chews Beren's arm off when the latter tries to use the Silmaril's radiance to scare the giant demonic wolf away.
    • The Fall of Gondolin: Ecthelion gets both arms broken when he fights Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs, and loses his life to kill him.
    • In The Lord of the Rings:
      • Gandalf kills the Balrog but dies from the ordeal.
      • Éowyn's shield arm actually was broken by the Witch-King, but that wasn't the worst wound she suffered. Just touching the Witch-King is enough to seriously harm you, so when she and Merry stabbed him, their respective weapon arms were hurt and they needed special medicine to recover. Éowyn wound up so deeply comatose she was at first mistaken for dead.
      • Frodo himself never recovered from his adventures. The wound that the Witch-King inflicted upon him never fully healed, and he was also damaged psychically from his possession of the Ring. Eventually, he had to abandon all that he used to love and depart to Valinor just to come to terms with his inner pain.
      • Incorruptible Samwise Gamgee could not shake off the taint of the ring after handling it for what might have been a couple of hours, though he held off considerably longer than Frodo. This last of the ringbearers also heads into the West, but only after a long time spent raising a family and healing both himself and the world around him.
  • In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch ceremonially slaughters Aslan, seemingly securing her tyrannical reign over Narnia. But given that Aslan is explicitly Narnia's Jesus, he comes Back from the Dead and destroys the White Witch, freeing Narnia from her grasp once and for all.
    • Aslan specifically mentions that the "Deep Magic" which predates them both was carved onto the stone table. Word of God (not that one) says this was a reference to Moses's stone tablets, and the shattering was an end of the old religion of Narnia and the beginning of the new. It was the Witch's own actions that triggered this event.
  • Mercy Thompson: In River Marked, Mercy manages to take out the River Devil but ends up in a wheelchair with a broken leg, broken knee, serious burns, and various cuts and lacerations requiring four staples and one hundred and forty-two stitches. Of course the real problems are the River Devil is only mostly dead and she used the magic walking stick to do it. Apparently blooding one of Lugh's creations in the heart of a prehistoric monster made of magic is a whole new kind of trouble.
  • Moby-Dick is an early example of this. Ahab spends the entire story relentlessly pursuing the unusually large whale in search of revenge. This determination gradually reduces his sanity as he becomes more and more obsessed with his target. When he finally does catch up to the whale, it takes the lives of all but one of the crew, and it's not even clear if Ahab's efforts even hurt it.
  • Old Kingdom:
    • In Sabriel, Sabriel's father uses the bell Astarael, which sends anyone who hears it deep into Death, to try to permanently kill the book's undead villain. It doesn't work. It does, however, delay him enough for Sabriel to get away and find a better way of killing him — which also doesn't work, so she seals him away instead.
    • In Abhorsen, the only way to seal the Big Bad would result in the death of the caster of said seal thanks to a backlash effect and the Big Bad trying to take her with him. Lirael goes through with it anyways, but survives when the Disreputable Dog bites off her hand, saving Lirael's life.
  • A frequent Downer Ending in Philip K. Dick short stories. In "Faith of our Fathers", the Eldritch Abomination in question turns out to be God, and the minor wound the hero received in the encounter ends up being fatal. However, it is seen as a vaguely optimistic outcome, as it's hinted rebellion is impossible, so his minor act of defiance (in punching Cthulu in the face) is a victory for the human spirit. After he is 'branded' as a result with a deadly sore, which slowly spreads over his body, he chooses to ignore it and spend his last night alive making love with his girlfriend as an act of humanity, denying Cthulhu a moral victory.
  • The Power of Five: Sapling had to die to trick the Old Ones the first time. When Matt incapacitated them in Evil Star, he almost died (and would have, had Pedro not been present). When the Old Ones are finally defeated for good, it requires a Heroic Sacrifice from Scott and a Kill the Ones You Love from Richard to Matt.
  • At the very start of The Saga of Seven Suns, the only surefire method the protagonists have for killing Hydrouges is ramming ships into them at FTL speeds. Awesome, but Impractical doesn’t even begin to describe it; a valuable ship and all of its crew lost for the sake of killing one enemy at a time.
  • Schooled in Magic: Emily defeats King Randor the necromancer, but his dying curse strips her of her powers.
  • This is a frequent trope in the works of Stephen King.
    • In Jerusalem's Lot, Boone manages to destroy the book, De Vermis Mysteriis. But the evil is not destroyed (Boone notes, "The burning of the book, but there are other copies"), and to cut his family's ties to the evil, he dives into the ocean. Unfortunately, that doesn't work either, as a descendant of the Boone line takes up residence in the ancestral home, and events begin again.
    • In IT, Eddie Kaspbrak loses his arm battling the title monster, and dies. He does weaken the creature enough for the rest of the Losers' Club to kill it.
    • In Carrie, Margaret actually manages to seriously hurt Carrie, badly enough that her blood loss contributes to her death by the end. Margaret doesn't live to see it, though, as Carrie quickly kills her with a psychically-induced heart attack.
      • In the 1976 and 2013 film adaptations, this is changed to Carrie throwing every knife in the kitchen at Margaret, crucifying her. However, the guilt of killing her own mother, on top of all the people she killed at prom, causes Carrie to commit suicide soon after. Score one for Margaret from beyond the grave!
  • In "Thor Meets Captain America" by David Brin a soldier broke the spear by which he ought to have been killed over his knee. The spear belonged to Odin, and his knee didn't really like the treatment.
  • In Touch, there have thus far been two attempts to combat an otherwise unbeatable foe. One person tried riding a nuke down its throat and died in the process. The other survived, but six years later, they're still waiting for his skin to grow back.
  • In Robert E. Howard's short story "The Valley of the Worm," the main character, Niord, succeeds in killing the giant title creature and its piper/herald, but is mortally injured in doing so. As he dies, the story ends.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, Rafen manages to slay the Eldritch Abomination Malfallax. However, Malfallax's death comes with a curse that triggers the Black Rage in all of the nearby Blood Angels, and while Rafen manages to free them of it, Malfallax's true form is still alive in the Warp, plotting vengeance on him.
  • A literal case in the first book of War of the Dreaming: Peter Waylock attempts to use Thor's hammer against an enemy sorcerer, and ends up breaking both his arms — not good, considering he also can't walk.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Dragon (no, not that one) took independent action and led a strike force of male channelers in storming Mordor and sealing the hole in the Dark One's prison. (He disregarded the original plan, to include females and use certain absurdly-powerful power-enhancing artifacts, after the forces of evil overran the locations of the access keys to said artifacts and political strife among the channelers resulted in all female Aes Sedai refusing to participate.) Good news: mission accomplished. Bad news: the Dark One subsequently tainted the male half of the One Power, thereafter driving anyone who used it insane and thus causing the Breaking of the World — the face of the world reshaped, billions killed, and the entire utopian society crushed into mythology. Though the society was kind of in the crapper from a decades-long war against the forces of darkness anyway, though at least not entirely broken up.
  • In the webserial Worm, an Endbringer attack's best-case scenario ends with a mostly destroyed city, and a quarter of the defending Capes dead. Actually managing to kill one causes horrific collateral damage, and a new Endbringer being created that no one has any idea how to plan for. Defeating the Physical God Scion renders many dimensions uninhabitable. Taylor's mind control killed or traumatized countless Capes, and left her a shell of herself unable to understand language, recognize friends, or process the world as anything but conflict. The sequel Ward goes deeper into the immigration crises between dimensions, and how without a guiding Entity, some new Cape's triggers are expressed in horrific ways that can kill city blocks.

    Live Action TV 
  • This trope very nearly comes to pass in the Season 4 finale of Angel when Angel narrowly succeeds in thwarting rogue Power Jasmine's attempt to brainwash the entire human race for its own good by breaking her powers of illusion. While this does weaken her somewhat, it mostly just convinces her that humanity should die instead. Thankfully, Angel's son Connor (who is Jasmine's mortal father) turns up and manages to punch her out for good. Hey, being Cthulhu's dad has its advantages.
    • And the trope then does come to pass, as with her out of the picture, the human race goes from its Jasmine-induced state of perfect understanding and empathy with all other human beings to normal. The crash brings out suicidal and homicidal tendencies in most of the population, including Connor himself. The good guys are forced into a Deal with the Devil for a Reset Button and the Devil in question claims to be dealing with them out of respect for their demonstrated aptitude for inflicting pain and suffering on levels its own minions had failed to match. The messenger of said Devil starts out by congratulating the heroes for "thwarting world peace". Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
    • The series finale features Angel and his gang causing as much damage as they can to Wolfram and Hart, having determined there is no way to take down the Senior Partners themselves. They successfully destroy their agents on the mortal plane and disrupt operations enough to set back the apocalypse significantly. However, the time they purchased for Earth costs them heavily and the Big Bad sends an army to make their displeasure known.
      • And the comics show that this results in L.A. being cut off from the rest of the world and plunged into Hell. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
    • In "The Tale of the Curious Camera" the protagonists destroy the camera by making it take a picture of a mirror, but the demon possesses a video camera instead. Then they smoke it out of that, only for it to invade the computer.
    • In "Pinball Wizard", Ross wins the life-size pinball game but is doomed to replay it forever.
    • In "Super Specs", the attempt to close the portal to the parallel universe results in that universe taking over "our" space and trapping the heroes in a Pocket Dimension.
  • In the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Scoobies take on The First Evil, who cannot take corporeal form and therefore can't be killed. They manage to defeat its army, but only after destroying the Hellmouth by blowing up Sunnydale and after the deaths of Spike, Anya, and several potentials. Even then, they never truly defeated it. How can you defeat pure evil?
  • In Doctor Who "Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways" when Rose Tyler uses the power of the Time Vortex to destroy the Daleks she is nearly killed by the vortex. The Doctor saves her by absorbing it, but this causes him to regenerate.
    • In the Big Finish Doctor Who story Neverland the Eighth Doctor saves Gallifrey from being infected by Anti-Time by materialising the TARDIS around the satellite containing the Anti-Time. However, in the process, he is infected with Anti-Time and becomes the monstrous Zagreus.
  • In the Game of Thrones episode "The Long Night", Danaerys exhausts her dragon with a prolonged fiery blast to the Night King... only to find he is completely unfazed and even smirking slightly.
  • Jyu Ken Sentai Gekiranger: The show's penultimate episode has Rio attempt a suicide attack on Long's One-Winged Angel, which so appeared indestructible and has easily beaten the Gekirangers with they tried to stop him. Rio enters Long's body and releases all of his ki, causing both of them to explode apparently killing them both. But, as Long reminded us already, he can't die, right as appears again a few seconds later and mocks how Rio just gave his life for nothing.
  • At the climax of the TV miniseries version of Stephen King's The Shining, Jack regains himself long enough to turn the hotel boiler's wheel back, increasing the boiler pressure and destroying the Overlook. But the ending shot shows that a new Overlook Hotel is going to be built on that same spot...
  • The basis of the Wraith conflict in Stargate Atlantis. The tech level of Earth and its allies is enough to hold them off, but there are so many of them each victory is just delaying the inevitable.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • The first 8 seasons consist of the Tau'ri and their allies trying to avoid (and sometimes causing) Type 6(ish). As the Tok'ra are fond of saying, lots of warring Goa'uld are preferable to one all-powerful Goa'uld.
    • In Season 10, SG-1 manages to "kill" all of the Ori (they're energy beings so "kill" isn't quite the right word), but this doesn't stop their followers from continuing their war on the galaxy. It also means that when Adria ascends, she now has all the power that was once split among all the Ori. This makes her insanely powerful.
  • Supernatural:
    • In the Season 5 finale, Sam Winchester deliberately breaks his arm punching out Lucifer when he, after inviting the Devil to possess him, somehow manages to throw the both of them back into the Devil's Cage. The upside: the Apocalypse is averted. The downside: Sam's soul is trapped, for the foreseeable future, in an abyss with an enraged and betrayed Satan. The personal kickback is nonexistent.
    • Also used for Black Comedy earlier in the episode. Castiel hits Michael with a Molotov Cocktail of sacred oil to buy Dean time. Michael is far too powerful to be killed by this and is merely temporarily banished. Lucifer is pissed (only he gets to dick with Michael) and promptly makes Castiel explode.
    • Played straight on both a physical and emotional level in the Season 6 finale when Castiel becomes a Physical God. The first thing he does to demonstrate his newfound power is blowing the Archangel Raphael to smithereens with the snap of his fingers. Unfortunately, to get this power in the first place, he had to absorb the souls of all the monsters in Purgatory. Castiel very quickly goes Drunk with Power and begins using it to kill off anyone he finds who he disagrees with on something. Upon having a Heel Realization, Cas helps the Winchesters, Bobby, and Death arrange a ritual to return all the souls to Purgatory, but the soul-less Leviathans that he also absorbed remained behind, and now that he was once again "just" an angel, they quickly ripped him apart from the inside out.
    • In the Season 7 finale, Dean and Castiel manage to kill Dick Roman, thus stopping the Leviathans' plans to Take Over the World. However, the backlash from Roman's death drags Dean and Cas into Purgatory.
    • This happens again in Season 9. In order to kill Abaddon, last of the Knights of Hell with the First Blade, Dean has to take on the Mark of Cain, which then corrupts his soul, gives him an insatiable bloodlust, and eventually turns him into a demon.
    • Before any of them, in the Season 4 finale, Sam, while hopped up on demon blood, killed Lilith, the first demon. Unfortunately, it turns out Lilith was also the last seal, and Sam killing her caused Lucifer to break free.
    • In "Weekend At Bobby's", Bobby gets a hold of Crowley's bones from when he was human and uses them to torture him until he agreed to call off their deal. "Taxi Driver" reveals that Crowley was so pissed off by this that he bought off Bobby's reaper Ajay, so that when Bobby died, Ajay took him to Hell.
    • The Darkness comes very close to killing God himself in the Season 11 finale. Dean initially assumes this will give her total control of reality, but she explains to him that since darkness and light cannot exist without the other to contrast it with, it will actually destroy everything in existence, including herself.
  • The Terror ends this way; the crew manages to kill the Tuunbaq through a combination of attrition and poisoning... but not before the entire crew except Crozier is dead, either at the hands of the monster itself, natural hazards or mutiny.
  • Depending on the interpretation, this may be one possible interpretation of Twin Peaks: The Return. It's theorized that Cooper entering the alternate universe, finding Laura, and causing her to remember her previous life was enough to destroy Judy, but also wiped out the alternate timeline that Cooper and Laura were in.


    Mythology & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology is rife with this trope, often combined with Do Not Taunt Cthulhu. This is in keeping with the ancient Greeks' negative attitudes toward hubris, which referred to mortals considering themselves equal to the gods.
    • Sisyphus managed to cheat death by imprisoning The Grim Reaper Thanatos. However, doing so messed up the whole cycle of life and death. So eventually the impulsive Ares frees Thanatos, and Sisyphus was dragged to the underworld. His punishment? Sisyphus must roll a boulder up a steep hill...but it will always roll back down again whenever he's almost at the top, forcing him to perform this pointless task forever. In some versions he doesn't have to, he was just told he'll be let out if he actually manages it and he refuses to give up.
    • Arachne is famous for challenging Athena to a weaving contest and then getting turned into a spider. Depending on the Writer, Arachne actually won, but got turned into a spider anyway. This is because Athena was a Sore Loser, and/or because Arachne wove a tapestry depicting the salacious exploits of gods like Zeus. Do Not Taunt Cthulhu is definitely in play here. But hey, at least Athena decided not to flay Arachne and wear the skin around.
    • Likewise, the satyr Marsyas challenged Apollo to a music contest, with Marsyas on the flute and Apollo on the lyre. Marsyas is said to have played Apollo to a draw until Apollo outdid him either by playing his instrument upside down, or by singing along with his gorgeous voice — neither of which you can do with a flute. Apollo proceeded to punish Marsyas by flaying him alive and making him into a wineskin.
    • In The Odyssey, this trope is why Odysseus's journey home was so long and grueling. Early in his voyage, he defeated Polyphemus the Cyclops, first by blinding him with a giant red-hot stake and then with a little wordplay and trickery. But on his way out to sea, Odysseus made the fatal mistake of boastfully declaring his identity to Polyphemus. And Polyphemus just happened to be the son of Poseidon, who proceeded to make Odysseus's life miserable for the next twenty years.
  • Irish mythology sees the ancestors of the Irish drive out the gods in a great battle that ends with the gods departing the mortal world. However, this results in a great blight upon the land. The ancestors of the Irish eventually reach out to the gods and reach a compromise where the gods will make the land prosper in exchange for offerings from mortals.
  • Ragnarok, the end of the world in Norse Mythology, is full of this. The gods kill the giants and monsters, but almost all of them get killed in the process. Odin gets killed by the giant wolf Fenrir but is avenged by his son Vidar. Thor kills Jormungandr, the Midgard Serpent, but dies of the monster's poison. Loki gets killed by Heimdall, but not before bringing Heimdall down with him. And Tyr and Garm kill each other.
  • Doubly subverted in the Sigurd legend, where he is warned beforehand that the blood of the dragon Fafnir is very poisonous, and builds a special pit trap to channel the monster's blood away from him. But then he finds out too late that a piece of the dragon's treasure — a ring — is cursed, and it becomes the catalyst in a long and bloody plot arc that eventually got adapted into a Wagner opera and likely served as the inspiration behind another cursed ring.
  • In Japanese Mythology, wolves are regarded as one of the most powerful and noble yokai, and while friendly to humans, it's known that's unwise to piss them off. For example, in a myth in Tōno monogatari relates that a few people of the Lide village spotted three young wolves in their reeds, but despite it being common knowledge that attacking a wolf is a very bad idea the farmers somehow thought killing two wolves and capturing the third (presumably to domesticate) would be a good idea! Result: the other wolves got mad and started to harass the citizens of Lide village. Further arm breaking happened later. The village tried to fight back by hunting the wolves down, but the pack was stealthy and refused to directly confront the humans. However, a man called Tetsu (Iron in Japanese) challenged the wolves to single combat, and a female leader accepted. Tetsu proceeded to wrap his arm in a jacket and jam it straight into the she-wolf's guts. Sure it killed her, but she still had enough strength and willpower to amputate Tetsu's arm, and Tetsu died of blood loss.
  • In some versions of the Mordiford Wyvern legend, the dragonslayer Carston is poisoned to death by the monster's blood.
  • In the legend of The Lambton Worm, Sir John Lambton is told by a wise woman that after killing the dragon, he must kill the next living thing he sees or else his family will be cursed for the next nine generations. He tells his servants to send a dog into the swamp after he signals his victory, but his father gets overexcited and runs ahead of the dog to congratulate his son. Sir John can't bring himself to kill his father, so he and his family get the curse, for nine generations.
  • John Henry the steel-driving man is an example of this in American folklore. In a tunnel-digging race against a steam drill, he won using only a hammer, but the ordeal was so stressful that he died of heart failure immediately after.
  • In the Book of Genesis from The Bible, Jacob wrestles with the Angel of the Lord and has Him pinned down, but the Angel gives Jacob a permanent limp before blessing him with the new name Israel.

  • In Malevolent, Arthur cuts his own throat in an attempt to save John from having to return to The King in Yellow. It doesn't work.

  • Dino Attack RPG
    • Pterisa's lightning bolt barely even hurt the Darkitect, and was more akin to Flipping Off Cthulhu than Punching Out Cthulhu. The Darkitect responded by knocking off her helmet, causing Pterisa to suffer a Heroic BSoD.
    • Kate Bishop successfully managed to defeat the Maelstrom on Adventurers' Island, but the whole ordeal combined with several other discoveries about her past ultimately pushes her over the deep end.
    • The team did eventually expel the Maelstrom from the planet, but it is still very much alive, and there is no guarantee that it won't someday try to come back. Additionally, at least half the cast died in the process of achieving that temporary victory, as well as the fact that Kate, Sam Race, Sarah Bishop, and untold numbers of other survivors were severely traumatized by the experience.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The premise of the Arkham Horror Board Game is to keep the Ancient One from awakening because this trope is the best possible outcome if it has to be fought. They don't just deal the usual Stamina and Sanity damage: they dish out unhealing wounds, remove limbs, force players to sacrifice hard-won prizes or die, force players to sacrifice each other and their NPC allies for time, Mind Rape players to death, or just disintegrate people outright with a Touch of Death. Meanwhile, the Ancient One's mooks are wreaking havoc in and around Arkham.
  • In Call of Cthulhu, it's possible (if your investigators are insanely brilliant and cunning) to hit Cthulhu with a nuclear weapon. The game has rules for what happens when you do this. What are the rules? Cthulhu regenerates about 15 minutes later... but now he's radioactive.
  • The whole idea behind the Tarrasque ("The", not "a"; also note the capital letter) in Dungeons & Dragons. It's a mouth with a giant body attached to it. It wakes up every couple of years for a few days, then just chows down on everything in sight, demolishing whole kingdoms before going back to napping. On the off chance you manage to fight it, you're in for a big one. It can remain conscious and fighting all the way down to -30 HP (and it has a lot of health to start with) and regenerates health automatically no matter what happens. The only way to permanently kill it is with a Wish spell, and that has a 50% chance of allowing it to come back after a while. Don't have a Wish spell? Your best bets are to either bury it alive (it won't die, but it will remain unconscious at -30 until somebody decides to be a dick and unbury it) or put it at the bottom of the ocean (it will manage to surface eventually, but it will take a long time; it will get enough health back to swim about five feet up, get knocked unconscious from drowning, get a bit more health back and keep doing this... until it surfaces).
    • The fourth edition decided to cut directly to the chase: Defeating the Tarrasque merely makes its physical form sink back into the earth, from which it is inevitably revived. All you've done is cut short its current rampage. The Tarrasque in that edition is a curse laid upon the earth by a being older than the gods, and cannot be undone by mortal hands. In Pathfinder it is non-killable: It will revive automatically no matter what you throw at it.
  • In Exalted, the Exalted killed the Primordials. Their Death Curse has led to two apocalypses so far and counting.
    • Also, She Who Lives In Her Name's last act before being sealed away was to Ret-Gone vast swathes of Creation into nothingness. According to accounts by The Fair Folk, who witnessed the whole sequence of events from outside creation, even the splendor of the First Age was just a tiny, burned-out remnant of what Creation used to be.
      • To be more specific, the Ret-Gone didn't just destroy physical area, it supposedly annihilated nine-tenths of Creation on a conceptual level. Whole principles of being ceased to exist, leaving only what players and characters understand as conventional reality. It's a reality with magitech, super-sorcery, and god-given Elder God-smacking heroes. But the implication is that the time before the Three Spheres Cataclysm is more or less impossible to wholly comprehend.
  • KULT plays with this. Humans are actually super beings who are unaware of their power. Various supernatural forces try to prevent humans from being awakened, yet their efforts seem to be futile.
  • Magic: The Gathering: if one of the big colourless Eldrazi — even the weakest of them — attacks, you will automatically have to sacrifice a permanent even if you manage to kill it. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, will cost you six permanents. Meaning that even if you're able to kill the creature, you will have lost quite a bit of board presence.
    • Later versions lack the Annihilator value — it turned out to be less fun than the designers liked — and so they increased the oomph of the on-cast triggers they get. For example, the new Emrakul, known as the Promised End, will take over your mind when your opponent summons her, even if you counterspell, giving them a turn where they can make you trash your own board presence and make the most ill-advised attacks possible. You do get a make-up turn, but it'll generally be one with much less in your hand and the most powerful creatures you controlled dead in a ditch.
  • This is why you can't kill a Titan in Scion — Fate, being an utter asshole in the Scion universe, will go berserk if something that big is taken out of reality. When Ymir died, the Ice Age ended, causing worldwide catastrophe. The best the Gods can do is make the Titans into Sealed Evil in a Can.
  • The whole business of fighting Chaos in Warhammer 40,000. Any really powerful daemon simply cannot be destroyed by physical means, as they live in the Immaterium, and there's exactly one psyker powerful enough to fight them on their turf... and he's on the life support for the last ten millennia. All that He Who Fights Monsters could do is banish the daemons back to the Warp, for them to return again later. Even though such banishments aren't exactly the bed of roses even for the Daemon Princes, and many lesser daemons could be vanquished entirely with proper procedure, this fight is essentially a defensive one, with no chance of a true victory. And the Enemy is dangerous indeed.
    • For example, take Lucius the Eternal, Champion of Slaanesh, one of the aforementioned Great Champions. If he is killed in battle and the foe takes even the slightest satisfaction from or pleasure in his death, he possesses his killer and eventually takes him over entirely, with the former victor now nothing more than another screaming face on Lucius's armor...
  • In one Time of Judgment scenario in Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Wyrm materializes in the Aetherial realm and makes a beeline for Earth. Rorg, the Celestine of the Asteroid Belt, attacks the Wyrm but fails to injure it. To boot, the Wyrm breathes balefire in Rorg's face, blinding him.
  • Frequently, stopping the latest Big Bad in the The Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Terminal Storyline causes mass amounts of death and destruction, then causes the appearance of the next one.

    Video Games 
  • Recurrent in Ar tonelico, although the Good End usually involves fixing the side-effects.
    • In the first game, Mir is initially defeated by singing Suspend, shutting down the tower's systems and crippling Song Magic. Even once the tower is reactivated, large chunks of the land surrounding another tower fall due to the power interruption.
    • In the second, getting into the tower requires dropping half of the already-diminished land area of Metalfass, but upon succeeding with Metalfalica, a new (and much better) Floating Continent is created.
  • In both parts of ARK: Survival Evolved: Genesis, each major blow you deal against the Controller prompts him to rant about the futility of your actions, that you have exhausted yourself and your resources while making only a dent in his. Every time, HLN-A reports that he's bluffing to demoralize you.
    • Played straight in the finale of Genesis 2, when the only way to defeat the Controller for good is to detonate the whole ship, taking most of its humans and creatures with it and leaving some possibility that his creations survive. It's unknown if the player even survives; POV immediately switches to Santiago respawning for The Stinger.
  • In Asura's Wrath, Asura breaks his arms defeating the first (and weakest) of the Seven Deities, Wyzen. The final DLC chapter involves Asura defeating Chakravartin, who is essentially God. However, in doing so, he destroys the source of Mantra, meaning that he soon dies, but at least his daughter survives.
  • Killing the Superboss of Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal Demogorgon Prince of Demons is an understandably daunting and challenging ordeal. All this does is free him from his prison in Watcher's Keep and sends him back home to the Abyss. Thanks to the rules governing demons and devils, he will be free to invade the material plane in a hundred years if he feels like it. Defeating it is still preferable to letting it roam free.
  • Bloodborne plays with the Lovecraft Lite trope in that it is absolutely possible (if not easy; it is a Spiritual Successor to Dark Souls) to punch out Cthulhu... you're just probably not going to be happy with the results.
    • Inverted pretty much literally with Amygdala, the most outright aggressive and malicious of the Great Ones - after you take its health down enough, it starts growing desperate enough that it will rip one its own arms off just to have a bludgeon to beat you to death with. Chtulhu breaks its own arm to have a better chance to kill a human, and fails.
    • Killing Rom, the Vacuous Spider, won't do anything bad to you, but she was a Barrier Maiden/Load-Bearing Boss whose presence was holding back the Blood Moon; i.e., the endgame. If you thought Yharnam was bad before...
    • Killing the Moon Presence, the True Final Boss, will turn the player into a Great One in its place. It's unknown how this will turn out, though the trophy implies, somewhat ominously, that you will 'lead humanity into its next childhood'.
    • The DLC exists as the result of the Byrgenwerth Scholars committing some grave sin, which is revealed in the final area to be killing the Great One Kos and massacring her followers. It's an impressive (if utterly horrific) achievement, but it also lead to their victims laying a "curse of blood" upon them and their 'children' (i.e. their successor organizations, the Healing Church and the Hunters) that causes them to eventually become Ax-Crazy and turn into grotesque monsters, and if they die in this state, they're pulled into the Hunter's Nightmare to spend unlives in an unending blood-crazed hunt against everything in their general vicinity. All of the first heroes of Yharnam are here... as feral monsters that exist in mockery of the people they once were.
  • In the Japanese version of Breath of Fire IV, The Emperor Soniel (largely via his head priest Yohm) attempts to kill Fou-lu (who not only happens to be the King in the Mountain that founded the empire Soniel is head of but is also a literal God-Emperor coming to reclaim the throne) in increasingly savage ways (including, at one point, the use of a Fantastic Nuke with Fou-lu's girlfriend as the warhead; this merely was the major point in the Trauma Conga Line that shoved Fou-lu over the edge to being a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds). The final attempt involved Soniel back-stabbing Fou-lu with a sword made from the decapitated head of a god whose full summoning failed; this pisses off Fou-lu, who proceeds to decapitate Soniel with the very sword he was back-stabbed with.
  • Breath of Fire II ends with a sour note, even in the Best Ending however, the "normal" ending is the most egregious case of this, and the best ending doesn't help a lot either.
  • Castlevania:
    • In the first game, Dracula curses Simon Belmont just before he is killed, giving him wounds that would never heal. Subverted in the sequel when Simon gathers up Dracula's body parts and resurrects him to kill him again, releasing himself from the curse. Yes, that's right. He punched out Cthulhu, broke his arm doing so, then brought back Cthulhu and punched him out again with the broken arm.
    • In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Julius also paid a hefty price for his victory against Dracula. While he does kill Dracula for good (reincarnation doesn't count), he loses his memories and becomes an amnesiac wanderer that gets trapped in Castlevania for decades.
  • The process of defeating Lavos in Chrono Trigger resulted in it absorbing the Mysterious Waif who had power over space and time. Now in Chrono Cross, the result is far worse, an entity that consumes time itself, who cannot die because there is always another timeline where it didn't die. That doesn't stop you from chasing the bastard to the literal End of Time and using the eponymous piece of Applied Phlebotinum to cross the time streams, which saves both worlds by fusing them into one, releases Schala from the Time Devourer's clutches and erases said Time Devourer from history. The only thing that taints this finale is that everything you've done over the course of the game didn't happen in this shiny new timeline, and several characters were only born or created as a result of your actions... so what happens to them?
  • Darkest Dungeon: Congratulations you killed the Eldritch Abomination plaguing the Hamlet. Unfortunately it most likely required you to sacrifice two party members and said Heart of Darkness can never be truly dead, and will inevitably one day fully awaken and shatter the Earth like an egg. Also, the Heir and surviving heroes are all mentally broken at the end of this, with the Heir even killing themselves.
  • Every game in the Dark Souls series has situations like this, especially in its endings given that the Cycle of Light and Dark and the Undead Curse that comes with it will only end when the world dies. Notable examples include Artorias the Abysswalker's fate, The Ivory King's sacrifice, and the fate of Prince Lorian after he Linked the Fire with his brother Lothric.
  • In the backstory of the Dead Space series, the few natives of Tau Volantis who hadn't succumbed to the Markers' influence sacrificed themselves to force the Brother Moon into hibernation. In the end of Dead Space 3, Isaac and Carver repeat the sacrifice.
    • Isaac survives after all, we can hear him breathe and call for Ellie after the credits.
      • The Awakened DLC reveals that although Isaac and Carver did manage to kill the Tau Volantis Moon, it had managed to awaken its Brethren before dying. And they find out where humanity is and reach Earth before Isaac and Carver can. All of humanity's troubles in the prior games were caused by a single Brethren Moon rendered "comatose" by the Tau Volantis natives... now there are multiple, wide-awake Moons.
  • The Taken King story arc in Destiny occurs in a way because of this. The Guardians may have finally permanently killed the Hive prince Crota on Eris Morn's behalf, but all they've done beyond satisfying Morn's thirst for vengeance is enrage Crota's infinitely more powerful father Oryx, who heads to Earth personally way earlier than hoped for and rains hell on both the Guardians and the Cabal. Oops.
    • There's two examples in the backstory:
      • Eris Morn and her team of six Guardians went to the Hellmouth to put down Crota. They managed to seal him in his personal pocket universe (where he's killed by you later) but get utterly slaughtered for their arrogant belief that they could fight a god prince and his army with a measly six Guardians, with only a mentally-broken Morn surviving. Special mention goes to poor Omar Agah, who had his soul flayed into nothing by one of Crota's servants.
      • Kabr the Legionless tried to lead a team into the Vault Of Glass and battle the Vex there. In his haste, Atheon discovered his team's presence and used the Vex's time travel capabilities to Ret-Gone his entire team from existence at once. Kabr alone avoided this and while he forged the Aegis that would let later Guardians defeat Atheon, the fact he simultaneously knew he came with a team and knew he came alone utterly destroyed his mind with the resulting time paradox.
    • The final boss fight of the Last Wish raid from Forsaken involves fighting Riven of a Thousand Voices, the last Ahamkara — a species of dragons whose main ability is turning desires into reality. It seems you take her out for good after killing her the first time, then taking her heart and bringing it to the Techeuns to cleanse it of Taken corruption... but afterward, this actually puts the Dreaming City in a worse state than before. During the frantic escape sequence, Riven was still conscious and had enough power, even in death, to exploit the desires of the fireteam at the time — their desire to save the Dreaming City — and trap the whole place in a three-week-long "Groundhog Day" Loop, starting with the Curse at minimal levels and ending with extreme corruption before resetting on the fourth week. In the end, the Guardians did worse than if they had just not entered the Dreaming City at all.
  • The hero of the first Diablo game winds up with a case of The Virus, since his mind was shattered by Diablo's final insultnote  and was subsequently brainwashed into believing the only way he could banish the Lord of Evil was to shove a chunk of it into his face. The hero of Diablo II figures out a better way... and hits it with a hammer.
  • Disgaea 2's worst ending is essentially this: After Rozalin/Overlord Zenon awakens again, she's not in the mood to listen to any reason and Adell is forced into fighting her. He accidentally kills her in progress, which doesn't inconvenience her spirit too much as she possesses Adell and the first thing she does is to make him eat/brutally kill his siblings.
  • Dragon Age:
  • Happens in the opening cutscene of Dragon's Dogma: you manage to stick a sword into the Dragon, and it retaliates by plucking out your still-beating heart.
  • Happens in Ending E of Drakengard; Caim and his dragon partner Angelus successfully slay the Grotesquerie Queen, a time-eating monstrosity capable of ending the world... only to get shot down by the Japanese Air Force immediately after, leaving both dead.
  • Everyone in Eternal Darkness, with the exception of the main character, it seems.
    • Not really, since each character's actions added up and destroyed all three evil abominations at the end, thanks to Mantorok's Taking You with Me scheme.
    • One case we have a character that believes in this trope that his actions against the Ancients will bring this about, but most hints of the plot is that he survived, likely since his actions didn't do anything to stop the Ancient that is the antagonist in storyline you're playing in, but serve the purpose of preventing the one you summon to kill Pious' Ancient from destroying the world itself, but he had no way of knowing that.
  • In the Family Guy video game, there is a sequence in Peter's level where you can punch God. This goes about as well as one would expect.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy IV, Golbez and FuSoYa manage to take out Zemus, which only succeeds in releasing his spirit, Zeromus. This also severely weakens them to the point where their most powerful attacks do absolutely nothing.
    • Final Fantasy V, the first fight the party has with Exdeath. Only Galuf is able to fight, and he isn't able to kill him, just drive him off, and dies from the injuries he gains in the fight.
    • In Final Fantasy VI, Celes manages to stab Kefka... it just happens to coincide with him becoming a God and destroying the world. It's a long, long time before the heroes are able to try a second time.
    • Final Fantasy VII Cloud's fight with Sephiroth in Nebelheim is revealed to have been this late in the game when Cloud gets back his memories of it. Cloud runs Sephiroth through with the Buster Sword, which fails to kill him and gets him impaled with the Masamune, but while stabbed he manages to grab hold of it and toss it and Sephiroth into a fissure that leads him to fall into The Lifestream before passing out his injuries. Shinra afterward made an effort to cover up the whole incident, which leads to Cloud's friend Zack being killed and Cloud left on his own. And of course, Sephiroth wasn't gone for good, having avoided being absorbed into The Lifestream and continued his plans.
    • In Final Fantasy IX, your party manages to defeat Garland the apparent mastermind behind everything... which allows Kuja to take control of the Invincible. Then your party beats up Kuja... which causes him to compliment you because he was depending on your party driving him to the edge so that he can go Trance (which he learned how to do during the course of your party punching out a lesser Cthulhu) and mainline the souls stolen by the Invincible into himself to make him a planet-destroying god.
    • In Final Fantasy X, the traditional Final Summoning kills the Summoner who performs it and only temporarily gets rid of the monster Sin, which is why the heroes look for another way, hoping to eliminate Sin once and for all.
      • And when they are able to find one it causes the main character (the saved summoner's Love Interest) to cease to exist since he was from a dream world sustained by the same entity responsible for creating Sin. FFX-2 makes this all better by bringing Tidus back in the best ending.
    • In Final Fantasy XIII-2, where you kill the Immortal Guardian Caius, and everything seems to be well, only to be kindly reminded that the heart of the goddess of time and death was beating inside his chest and by stabbing it you killed her, making time, life and death cease to exist. Which was Caius' goal all along. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
    • The game also sheds a new light to Final Fantasy XIII, when you find out that, in fact, your arm should've been broken when you killed Orphan, and the only reason it didn't was that the Goddess took pity and resurrected everyone, thus creating the time rift that caused all the events in the sequel to happen. Which means that if the benign Cthulu that you accidentally murdered in XIII-2 hadn't saved everyone in XIII, she wouldn't die and... break everybody's arm. So to speak...
    • In Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, the Warrior of Light absorbs the corrupted light aether of the Lightwardens threatening the First, believing that Hydaelyn's blessing would protect them rather than instantly transform them into a new Lightwarden. As it turns out, however, Hydaelyn's blessing is only prolonging the process: the corrupted aether is still accumulating in their bodies, so they are, in essence, giving themselves hairline fractures by punching out Cthulhus. Once the final Lightwarden is destroyed and absorbed, they reach the breaking point and are in danger of turning into an even more powerful monster. It takes some quick thinking on the part of their allies to halt the process, and some aid from an old spirit to cure them of the corruption.
    • Final Fantasy Dissidia has this in its sequel Dissidia 012 when the prequel cycle, Cloud, at the time a warrior on Chaos' side, turned on Chaos out of fear of Tifa being hurt in the conflict. After a fight in-game, Chaos simply laughs off Cloud's attempt and kills him, which led to Cloud being revived in the next cycle as a warrior on Cosmo's side, but his death in the battle meant he longer had the memories of the early cycles.
  • The Downer Ending of Galerians invokes this trope in multiple ways. Yes, the protagonist Rion succeeds in destroying the Master Computer gone wrong, but the effort of it breaks his brain. Plus, the Master Computer has a backup plan. Queue sequel.
  • God of War:
    • God of War III takes this trope Up to Eleven when Kratos, after an unsuccessful attempt at Zeus' life, enters a murderous rampage against the Olympian pantheon, killing gods and titans alike. Unfortunately, Kratos accidentally causes all kinds of global disaster when he kills a god, and by the time that he finally killed Zeus, the world has been plunged into the apocalypse. Understanding the errors of his way, Kratos has no choice but to sacrifice his own life and release the personification of hope to fix the world.
    • In Ghost of Sparta, Kratos and his brother Deimos kill Death. It comes at a terrible price: Deimos loses his life saving Kratos during the battle, and Kratos loses his brother again. Especially tragic since Kratos' goal throughout the game was to save Deimos.
  • Gradius is BUILT on this trope. Congratulations on killing the final boss and blowing it up into a bunch of pieces! Too bad that each of those pieces will regenerate into another Big Bad. Each with their own army.
    Venom: I am just a small part of what was known as Venom. Pieces of me are scattered throughout the cosmos. Eventually, another will become sentient and exact retribution. You will never escape the shadow of fear! My hatred for your kind is eternal!
    • Later games in the series subvert this in regards to the Bacterians: while they still exist in the far future, they're no longer intelligent and are no more dangerous than animals. Seems the Gradians got the last laugh in the end.
  • In Halo lore, the Forerunners were forced to activate the Halo Array in order to stop the Flood. The downside? The Halos did so by killing all sentient life left in the galaxy, including almost every Forerunner. Even worse, several Forerunner installations that were left with intact Flood samples have only limited defenses against outside interlopers vulnerable to Flood infection. Eventually, the Flood on Delta Halo are able to take advantage of this to escape and infect Slipspace-capable ships, with one making it all the way to Earth; it takes an allied Elite fleet glassing a chunk of Africa to prevent the planet from falling to the Flood. While the good guys do eventually defeat the Delta Halo outbreak, the fact that there are still many Flood samples out there waiting to be released (not to mention the Flood's potential extra-galactic origins) means that the galaxy can't rest just yet.
  • Not quite Cthulhu, but the Progenitor Dreadnought that ended up in the Hiigarans' hands in Homeworld 2 almost fell victim to this. The Hiigarans decided to use their recently salvaged, super-powerful Lost Technology starship to lay the smackdown on a major Vaygr force. Thing is, they underestimated how badly the ship deteriorated over the millennia: when they sent it into combat, its Phased Cannon Array fragged a Vaygr battlecruiser in a single shot... and promptly burned out every single power conduit inside the ship, damn near blowing up the Dreadnought as well. It took extreme effort by the Hiigarans to keep the Vaygr from finishing the damaged Dreadnought off, plus Bentusi assistance to partially repair the cannon until it could operate at even a reduced output — but not before Progenitor Keepers also homed in on the Dreadnought to retrieve it, forcing the Bentusi to blow themselves up to save the Dreadnought.
  • In Hollow Knight's "Embrace The Void" ending, added with the Godmaster DLC, as a consequence of the Knight using the Power of the Void to overpower Absolute Radiance, it merges with the Void and manifests as a titanic Zalgo-esque Eldritch Abomination, who proceeds to take over over Godhome, and is implied to be inflicting a new plague upon Hallownest. In other words, in punching out Cthulhu, the protagonist became Cthulhu themselves.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising: During the final battle, Medusa suddenly appears and literally destroys her arm punching Hades’ head off.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep: One of the main characters, Ventus, loses his heart as a result of defeating the Unversed once and for all, while Terra loses his body to Master Xehanort after their fight and becomes nothing more than the Linger Will, while the third and final main character, Aqua, defeats the Big Bad, but becomes trapped in the Realm of Darkness.
    • This leads into Kingdom Hearts, at the end of which Sora is able to restore the worlds destroyed by Darkness and seal the Door to Darkness, at the cost of trapping Riku and King Mickey inside and leaving himself, Donald, and Goofy stranded in an unknown place without the Gummi Ship. Both issues are solved in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, but Sora loses all of his memories and must be placed in an incubator for a year while Naminé restores them. He and Donald also lose all of their abilities in magic.
      • 0.2 creates a Fridge Horror version of this: in addition to trapping Riku and Mickey inside the Door to Darkness, they also strand Aqua, who's been there for ten years and missed her chance to escape mere minutes before the door closed. Her time spent inside and her efforts do prevent a huge tide of darkness from escaping while the door was open and gives her hope when she sees the worlds consumed by darkness become restored, but it's also apparently enough by the time of III for her to have completely succumbed to overwhelming negative influence of the darkness, becoming an evil version of herself.
    • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days leads Riku to capture Roxas, Sora's Nobody, so that Sora can be properly restored and set everything right again but to do so, must surrender to his own Darkness and is then forced to live out his days in the form of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness. By the climax of Kingdom Hearts II, he gets better and everyone is able to reunite. Sora manages to defeat Xehanort and finally set things right, but the end of Kingdom Hearts coded reveals that doing so has allowed the original Master Xehanort to revive.
    • And then, there's Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], where Sora becomes trapped in a nightmare version of The World That Never Was, and darkness is slowly seeping into his heart. He does manage to defeat Xemnas in the end... only for his heart to shatter, causing Sora to die. But fortunately, Riku revives him. Seems likely that until the series is done and over with, each game will end with a broken arm of some sort.
    • Kingdom Hearts III has Sora defeat Xehanort once and for all, but his overuse of the Power of Waking makes him vanish while the Foretellers have all arrived in the present day to continue the Master of Masters wishes
  • King's Field II sees the character's father, the former hero and saviour from the first game, get possessed by a demon and release waves of Eldrich Horrors upon the world. Your character must pick their way through this bleak hellscape, and hunt down and kill his own father. Best part — if you fail to get a particular magic sword (obtainable only by sacrificing your one and only friend), then the demon then possesses you. The final narration informs you that peace returns to the land and life returns to normal... only for your character to slowly fall to the demon and eventually re-release the demons, repeating the cycle — only this time, there's no one to stop you.
  • Kirby:
    • Most of the defeats of Dark Matter in the series seemed to be type 1 of this, with Dark Matter just coming back meaner and with an even more grand attack on the Kirby universe in the next game. So far, it looks like he finally is dead for good after Kirby 64. Humorously, Kirby doesn't really care; as long he carries his MacGuffin weapon, all he does is smack the heck out of Dark Matter and return to eating and sleeping.
    • When Kirby and Elfilin defeat Fecto Elfilis in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Elfilin has to close a portal, and he uses up all his power doing so. It's subverted when he's revealed to still be alive.
  • Maxim's battle with the Sinistrals in Lufia in the original and Rise of the Sinistrals. He and his party managed to defeat all four of them, but his Love Interest Selan is fatally injured, and Artea also later lost his eyesight from the battle. Maxim himself wasn't able to escape the Sinistrals' Floating Continent and died with it when it sank into the ocean, with the most he managed to do was break the crystals controlling it to keep it from crashing where it would harm anybody. Worst of all, the Sinistrals weren't gone for good, Erim reincarnated as Lufia, and her mere existence revived the other three Sinistrals. While The Hero in the original game and his party were able to defeat them, his refusal to kill Erim for good meant that the Sinistrals would return AGAIN, leading into the events of The Legend Returns. There's a smaller-scale example in The Legend Returns as well when Aima's martial arts master fights Gades. Gades is slightly scratched and impressed enough by his strength to spare everyone else, while the master dies of his wounds.
  • The worst ending of Mass Effect 3 (you need to intentionally screw the war effort up just enough so you can barely win) has Shepard sacrifice themselves to permanently destroy every Reaper in existence - by nuking the entire galaxy with overloaded Mass Relays. In addition to purging even more life than the Reapers did in eons, they've ensured the few survivors are now stuck in an endless Dark Age.
  • Mega Man X: Sigma breaks his arm (or more accurately, his brain) when he first beats the first Cthulhu Maverick Zero before the events of the first game. Defeating Zero causes his own infection with the Virus, which he then mutates by adding his own consciousness to it, turning him into the Big Bad and Cthulhu for most of the series to come. Four games later, The massive space colony Eurasia falls, jogging Zero's memory as Cthulu and causes him to challenge X to a duel. X wins, but Zero uses Soul Body moments before exploding, mortally damaging X.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, it is likely that the person who kills the spirit-eater will receive the curse next. Also, you can try to devour the soul of Myrkul, but Kaelyn will advise against it, warning that doing so might result in this.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, one thousand years ago, a group of four adventurers sealed the game's Sealed Evil in a Can — only to find that once they hid the keys to that evil's power away, they each became trapped in a black box. And the seal only lasts a thousand years anyways...
  • In the regular ending of Pathfinder: Kingmaker, the final battle ends with The Lantern King 'admitting defeat' as you've entertained him enough, while implying that if he really wanted to take you seriously he could still kill you, your kingdom, and probably everyone else who's ever looked at him funny with a thought. While he'll leave the Player Character alone if you ask him to, he escapes scot-free to stage other tragedies for his own amusement and has still inflicted a lot of pain and suffering upon you and your kingdom, including having Linzi Killed Off for Real.
  • In Peasant's Quest, Rather Dashing gets burninated after throwing the trogsword at Trogdor.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3's heroes defeat the avatar of Nyx, but unfortunately, Nyx just keeps on coming, responding to humanity's subconscious wish for death. The main character has to sacrifice himself to hold Nyx at bay permanently. Then in the Expansion Pack, the heroes end up just going ahead and beating up humanity's subconscious wish for death itself — but even then, it's stated that it's going to take a lot more work to solve the root problem.
    • This is a very common theme in Shin Megami Tensei games.
      • Yes, but it's not usually taken to this extent. Nocturne, for example, ends on a fairly upbeat note if you get the Freedom ending (if we ignore the fact that you have simply given this incarnation of the universe some time until God decides to reboot it again). Persona 4 completely averts this, and strongly hints after beating Margaret that Persona 3's main character's death might be somehow reversible.
      • Actually, that's the extent it's always been taken to in Persona. In the first one, Defeating Pandora causes Maki's ideal world to disappear, along with ideal Maki. Which means the actual version of Maki that the characters got to know and care for disappeared into the ether. In Persona 2 Innocent Sin, they fight and defeat the literal incarnation of humanity's malice, only to have one of their allies die, which in turn fulfills a prophecy that causes the end of the world. The only way to fix it? Strike a deal with an entity of immense power to rewrite history... effectively undoing all the personal growth the characters have experienced and significantly weakening the side of good. Persona 2 Eternal Punishment, in a rematch against the big bad, one of the main characters has to be sacrificed because his mere presence gives tips the scales in the big bad's favor.
      • Nocturne implies that the protagonist of Shin Megami Tensei II was cursed with a Fate Worse than Death for killing YHVH in the climax of that game. It didn't even stick, as YHVH/God will keep coming back as long as anyone believes in him. The Demi-Fiend can put himself in a position to help take down God for good... By allying himself with Lucifer, discarding his humanity and then destroying all of Creation, leaving no humans left to resurrect God with their faith. Even then, the ending doesn't say if you succeed, merely that Lucifer is preparing for a second Rebellion — and you just invoked It's Personal against God.
      • Shin Megami Tensei II invokes this at the end of the Law route. In it, the protagonists and Satan wipe out everyone on Earth under YHVH's orders. Immediately after, they feel a lot of regret and turn on YHVH so Satan can judge him. As a result of taking part in the battle, though, Satan crumbles to dust afterwards.
  • This is the basic tone of the ending to Prince of Persia (2008). A sequel might change it, though.
  • In the E3 video demo of Scribblenauts, God, riding a skateboard and holding a shotgun, fights Cthulhu. As per the trope, they both die at the end of the fight.
    • The question is: which one was supposed to be the Cthulhu, given the choices?
  • In Sakura Wars (2019), Hatsuho Shinonome de-powers Yaksha by using her remaining spiritual power, but the effort of doing so ultimately kills her. Fortunately, she and the other members of the Flower Division are revived.
  • The Secret World features this in spades whenever the Filth is involved. To begin with, killing the infectees only results in the killer being sprayed with Filthy blood, guaranteeing a new infectee — which is one of the reasons why it's always up to you, as the players are the only ones who are immune to the disease. Killing the infectees doesn't mean much, given that there's usually a huge reservoir of Filth nearby just waiting to start snatching up new victims. And even if you manage to quarantine or cleanse the Filth somehow, there are still dozens of other possible vectors of infection available — and the true source of the plague will always be just out of reach.
  • The Final Boss in Shadowrun Returns: Hong Kong plays out like this. Due to her near-godhood level power, you can shoot at Qian Ya as much as you like but it's made clear you are only Fighting a Shadow and reforms again moments later. Only shutting down the Fortune Engine will prevent her complete manifestation, which normally requires a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Silent Hill:
    • Depending on how you interpret the series, even the good endings mean that whatever malevolent entities surrounding the place just lie dormant until the next schmuck with a Dark and Troubled Past comes around. Then there are the bad endings, where you defeat the Big Bad, but your own sanity has suffered beyond repair.
    • In Silent Hill 4, Henry is implied to have broken his arm in the good ending.
  • In the final battle of South Park: The Stick of Truth, Nazi Zombie Princess Kenny will use extremely powerful techniques that require your party members to perform a special QTE to counter them, after which they'll be neutralized for the rest of the battle and another party member will step in. This goes on until you either defeat the boss or until Cartman (who is standing in the background the entire fight) is the only one left.
  • Sundered: Eshe falls victim to this in two of the endings. In the neutral ending, Eshe defeats Nyarlathotep and escapes to the outside world through an interdimensional portal, only to learn that Nyarlathotep’s avatar, the Shining Trapezohedron, still has power over her because she didn’t destroy all the Elder Shards. In the Resist ending, she does destroy all the Elder Shards and defeats both Nyarlathotep and the Shining Trapezohedron for good, only for the portal to blow up in her face and leave her trapped in the caverns.
  • From Warcraft:
    • Aegwynn, the super-powerful Guardian of Tirisfal, comes up against the avatar of Dark Titan Sargeras and defeats him with surprisingly little effort. The downside? Sargeras' spirit escapes his dying body and enters Aegwynn's womb, possessing her unborn child who later becomes the first game's Big Bad.
    • The story of Broxigar The Red Axe, who single-handedly challenged the horde of Demons during the first Burning Legion invasion to face him while buying his allies time. The horde of demons failed to take him down, causing Sargeras himself to personally attend to this little Orc. Broxigar struck Sargeras, only managing to strike a tiny chink and dying a horrible death at Sargeras' own hand. But it was an absolutely GLORIOUS death and allowed his allies to focus their ritual on that tiny chink to banish Sargeras back.
  • An inevitability in Warning Forever, in which your tiny ship fights an enemy that comes back bigger each time after it dies. It evolves to cover whatever weakness you exploited last time, so no matter how skillfully you defeat some ultimate form it had developed, it will be back, and while you'll be exhausted from the last fight, it will only be strengthened by your efforts to destroy it last time.
  • World of Warcraft has the Lich King Raid as its epic moment, after your party broke their arms trying to punch them. Tirion goes in and helps do him in. Yes, Arthas is dead, but there is still a need for another Lich King so Bolvar offers himself to the throne. So much for a victory feast with the Alliance and Horde as Azeroth celebrates the lich king's defeat
    • Arthas himself has an origin story involving versions 4 and 5 of this from trying to defeat the Scourge...
    • Kael'Thas' defeat at Tempest Keep was "only a setback," which you learn when you fight him again at Magister's Terrace.
    • The Old Gods are THE Eldritch abominations of warcraft, unfortunately, they're also burrowed into Azeroth's core, killing even one may result in the planet dying.
      • Actually, Word of God confirms that it's not possible for us players to permanently kill any of the Old Gods at all, the best we can do is force their influence out of Azeroth. Temporarily. At best.
      • There appears to be a way to permanently remove the effects of the Old Gods (and probably expel them permanently, or at least force them to start from scratch). However, it would result in the death of every living being on the planet by activating the Reorigination Device (a planet-wide Reset Button). There may be other problems with this, as the Titans chose to not use it between when they noticed the problem and their departure from Azeroth.
      • The Klaxxi, a faction from Mists Of Pandaria, claim that they have existed since before the coming of the Titans and that they worshiped an Old God that was slain by the Titans (and the Sha is the faintest echoes of this entities power still in the world). If true, then previous lore about the world being the domain the Elementals before the Titans came is wrong. But, both stories are from an Unreliable Narrator.
      • The Sha(the shadow of an Old God's corpse) are the result of killing Old Gods though as Y'Shaarj has shown they can be manually be resurrected as long as part of their body exists(the Heart of Y'Shaarj had to be destroyed for him to be Deader than Dead) and their past selves can reach through time as shown by the War of the Ancients trilogy so in order to stop them permanently they must be erased from history itself! Yogg-Saron confirms his death and the rising of Sha from his corpse.
  • X-COM:
    • In X-COM: Terror from the Deep, X-COM forces manage to destroy the Eldritch Abomination that the aliens were attempting to revive that definitely would have killed humanity (being effectively invincible once awoken). Unfortunately, the alien city T'leth (in which the abomination was sleeping) managed to rise above the waves before the final victory and explodes rather spectacularly. This first of all kills all the aquanauts who secured the final victory, and second, severely poisons huge swaths of the ocean and setting off cataclysmic cascading environmental disasters, such that by the time of the final game in the series, X-COM: Apocalypse, the earth has almost completely been reduced to a wasteland.
    • And by the end of X-COM: Apocalypse, humanity's last bastion of hope, Mega-Primus, has been devastated by the extended interdimensional war.
      • Except that, by that time, humans already have a number of colonies on other worlds, including Mars, as per Interceptor. Furthermore, the original plan was to build a number of Mega Cities to hold all of Earth's population, but the enormous costs only allowed them to build the prototype — Mega-Primus. It's possible that they may build others eventually.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 1, in a literal interpretation of the trope, Dunban loses the use of his right arm after using the Monado to repel the Nigh-Invulnerable armies of Mechon not once, but twice. And even after that, he just switches to a weapon light enough to wield with the only arm he can still use and joins your group again later on.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the third ending of Saya no Uta, Kouji and Dr. Tanbo manage to kill Saya, but Fuminori commits suicide after dealing a mortal blow to Dr. Tanbo. Kouji, meanwhile, is now permanently psychologically damaged as a result of all that he's seen in addition to the loss of his girlfriend and two best friends. He spends the rest of his life hiding a revolver with a single bullet in his bathroom in case it ever gets to be too much.
  • In Witch on the Holy Night, Soujuurou literally breaks both his arms taking out Lugh, an ancient nature spirit in the form of a werewolf. While he succeeds in destroying Lugh's heart, Lugh has a Healing Factor which quickly fixes it. Double Subversion in that while the physical damage is healed, Lugh is left practically catatonic as he comes to the realisation that he can be dealt a fatal blow.

  • Happens to Jesse in Apothecia when she tries to blow up the alien. It infects her instead.
  • Invoked in Code Name: Hunter as the main reason why the agency doesn't go to war against the Fey. As explained by Hunter, the Fey are divided into two courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, or Summer and Winter courts. The problem is that they don't just name themselves after the seasons; they ARE the seasons, with their Queens being the living incarnations of Summer and Winter respectively. So, while it's perfectly true that the agency has the resources to hunt down and destroy the Fey, they can't do that fast enough to prevent the courts to retaliate and cause a climatic disaster of global proportions.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: Cyra (Dan's grandmother and a powerful cubi of her own) attempts to steal the power of M'Chek and conquer Hishaan, the city that he protects. However, unknown to Cyra at the time, M'Chek wasn't just the protector of the city, he was also its reaper, and killing him has devastating consequences, among them:
    1. The sheer amount of magical energy unleashed upon his death turns the city into crystal,
    2. The dragon race becomes pissed at M'Chek's death, starting a thousand world war between Dragons and cubis, and tensions between the races is still pretty strong,
    3. As a result of the above, Cyra's whole clan and family are almost completely killed off, with only Dan, Destania, and Cyra herself still alive. Did I mention that since Cyra is the Clan Leader, she is incapable of having other children of her own?
    • Oh, and Cubi and dragons alike hate Cyra and her clan. No wonder Cyra regretted it.
  • Atler has this happen to him in Gumball Warrior when he attempts to fight Shieff. He manages to put up a good fight and overcome him in the battle by knocking his helmet off. Were it not for his blurred vision, Shieff's true form would have been exposed. At the same time, Atler suffers fatal injuries during the fight and dies shortly after, leaving Shieff's true identity a mystery for another 16 years.
  • Homestuck has more than a few examples of this.
    • In the Midnight Crew intermission, Spades Slick uses the crowbar on the Felt's safe, launching him into a timeline where everyone but himself, Snowman, and Doc Scratch are dead.
    • During Cascade, Spades Slick finally kills Snowman, ending the Troll universe.
    • Andrew Hussie himself pulls this off when he kills Doc Scratch. Turns out this was one of the final steps needed to summon Lord English into the Troll universe, and it allowed Lord English to kill off Hussie. Whoops.
    • And in a brilliant Mobius double-reacharound, Lord English did it by killing Hussie, allowing Hussie to harass his younger self as his mentor.
    • Mituna overexerted himself to protect the Alpha Trolls one day during their session, burning out his own psychic powers and reducing his intellect to save them from an unknown threat. It's hinted that the threat had something to do with Kurloz, the only witness to the event other than Mituna himself.
  • In Kill Six Billion Demons:
    • The Discordance of the Demiurges in Breaker of Infinities has Allison Fusion Dance with both White Chain and Cio, producing Aspected Chaos. Aspected Chaos then reinforces Mottom's Binding of Immortal Souls, producing an entirely new binding which actually harms Jagganoth and causes Incubus' sword to pierce his skin. After the inevitable explosion and dust cloud, Jagganoth is left standing paralyzed. He then announces (while paralyzed) that this is a strong binding... It will hold him for one minute. By realizing that this is the best they could do against him, Jagganoth decides he's had enough of testing their power levels, unseals his One-Winged Angel form, and goes on the offensive.
    • The end of the Discordance comes when Jagganoth's One-Winged Angel form defeats Allison and the Six thanks to a Gog-Agog pulling a Screw This, I'm Outta Here. Realizing that any chance to defeat him with teamwork has passed, Solomon David ends up pulling a Taking You with Me by unsealing a Dangerous Forbidden Technique intended for use to kill the gods if they ever returned to their Creation with hostile intent. This technique ends up sealing Jagganoth away from The Multiverse, but destroys Solomon's body beyond the point his Magus Key can heal him. Jagganoth, on his end, unravels the technique of the course of the next three years.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the Order of the Scribble's attempts at sealing the Snarl may count as this. They successfully manage to patch up the holes in the Snarl's prison with the gates, but one of them dies and the survivors break up for good, with bad blood between many of them. Said bad blood ends up destroying any united plan they may have had for protecting the gates, allowing Xykon to attack them piecemeal.
    • Further arm-breaking occurs when it turns out their solution to containing the Snarl allows for someone to access and control the power of the Snarl without setting it free, which is essentially the main plan of every major villain in the series.
  • Charon McKay's first punch against Deep One Prime was a massive Shoryuken that splintered some of the shadow-armor on her hand.
  • Sluggy Freelance: The Sluggyverse exists in a Vicious Cycle of creation and destruction. The god of creation, Prozoatu, creates the spark of life, and the god of destruction, Kozoaku brings about extinction events, killing much of it. Kozoaku is technically supposed to do this, but he always does it prematurely, ending the world before he is meant to. Khronus has opposed him many times but has only ever stopped him at great cost. But for all the trouble Kozoaku causes, killing him would make things even worse, since breaking a pillar of reality will cause a Reality-Breaking Paradox. And since Khronus has become completely indifferent to mankind, a tangle in the malfunctioning Fate Web is going to cause this to actually happen.
  • Tales of the Questor: Quentyn and his allies manage to kill the dragon they were tracking (a dragon twice the size of the one they thought they were tracking) but at the cost of a broken arm for Quentyn, various bumps and bruises for Sam and Pelinor and Ember (Quentyn's mountain pony) being mortally wounded and having to be put down. Then they find out that the scent of the dead dragon has sent the other dragon (The one they were actually after) into a berserker fury and it sets about torching the countryside. Quentyn and the others are in no condition to even try to fight it and fear the people will blame them for the rampage.

    Web Original 
  • Twice in DEATH BATTLE! so far:
    • First is in the first Goku versus Superman fight. Superman manages to completely atomize Goku with the Infinite Mass Punch, but the impact causes the entire earth to be shattered.
    • Second, more literally, in this case, is the end of All Might vs. Might Guy. Specifically, Might Guy wins, but he had to open the Eighth Gate to do so, and has a hole in his stomach from where he took the United States of Smash. The last scene before a cut to the post-fight analysis is Guy succumbing to the aftereffects of the Eighth Gate. The final blow was the Night Guy, the very same technique mentioned in the Anime/Manga section where Guy breaks his leg kicking Madara.
  • Dreamscape: The flashback in episode 7 reveals that when Dylan beat Melinda for the first time and got her sealed away, she placed a curse on him that wouldn't activate until long after their fight. It would take the form of a creature that would try and kill him, and if it was killed, it would come back stronger the next day based on how he's feeling before he falls asleep. He was only able to beat it by giving the curse a form with enough sapience to make its own choices.
  • In Draw with Me, it becomes did you just lose your hand trying to punch out Cthulhu (in this case, an instantly regenerating glass wall).
  • Jay from Marble Hornets in Entry #52 tackles the Operator/Slender Man, but in doing so he loses the last seven months from his memory.
  • In Touch (2017), there have thus far been two attempts to combat an otherwise unbeatable foe. One person tried riding a nuke down its throat and died in the process. The other survived, but six years later, they're still waiting for his skin to grow back.
  • Phase, in the Whateley Universe, fighting a tiny aspect of a demon trying to gain a foothold in this dimension. She stalled it long enough that it could be sealed off again. For now. But she ended up with broken bones, life-threatening injuries, psychological damage, and hideous nightmares that required intervention to stop. And, the personal enmity of said demon.
    • Halloween at Whateley, since killing Sara was the whole point. Not only did it fail, but the two commanders of the force that attacked are now wanted by the criminals as well as the law, and the one who ordered the attack got into deep shit, and a good portion of the attacking soldiers were killed or taken into MCO custody.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • A rare villainous example. Admiral Zhao manages to kill Tui, the Moon Spirit. La, the Ocean Spirit, gets pissed, fuses with Aang into an enormous One-Winged Angel, and lays an absolute smackdown on a massive Fire Nation fleet. After Tui is revived via Heroic Sacrifice, La parts with Aang, grabs Zhao, and drags him to the show's equivalent of hell.
    • Later in the series, the Gaang is fighting knowledge spirit Wan Shi Tong, who's trying to sink his library and trap them forever so they won't try to use his knowledge to hurt people. Sokka manages to knock Wan Shi Tong unconscious by hitting him over the head with a book. The Gaang barely manages to escape the sinking library with knowledge that can help them win the war. But unfortunately, the library still disappears, Appa gets stolen during the fight, and worst of all, the Gaang's new friend Professor Zei gets dragged down with Wan Shi Tong and the library. Presumably, Zei stays trapped there forever... though on the bright side, he was the only one of the group to actually be looking for "knowledge for knowledge's sake"note , and he seemed perfectly fine with staying in the library. In the sequel series "The Legend of Korra" it was noted that Professor Zei remained in the library for the remainder of his life as we get a glimpse of his skeleton later in the second season.
    • The Legend of Korra has another villainous example in Season 3, where Zaheer attempts to end the Avatar Cycle by kidnapping Korra, injecting her with a metallic poison to force her into the Avatar State, and then killing her in that state. Despite his huge precautions to ensure this goes well keeping restrained with chains made from a metal she cannot bend and assembling all his comrades to attack her at the same time), Korra easily frees herself and goes on a rampage, almost killing him until the poison finally starts kicking in. By the end of the episode, he has managed to cripple her and was only stopped from killing her by the New Air Nation and Suyin, but the whole operation indirectly caused the death of all his friends, as well as his own capture.
    • In The Legend Of Korra's Grand Finale, Mako destroys Kuvira's Colossus by overloading its spirit vine power core with a phenomenal bout of sustained lightningbending. Though he's successful, the feedback burns his forearm, and he's later seen wearing a heavy cast and sling.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold, has a fairly literal example in "The Power of Shazam!" After Doctor Sivana acquires Black Adam's powers, Batman punches him only for his fist to hurt from impact. Sivana then proceeds to take Batman out with Finger Poke of Doom.
  • Gargoyles:
  • Justice League:
    • "The Terror Beyond" features a team of Defenders-expies set up to beat back an incursion of Eldritch Abominations, which they end up doing by killing Ichthultu.. but Solomon Grundy dies in the process.
    • A much less serious version of this trope happens in the Unlimited episode "This Little Piggy" when Batman and Zatanna pick a fight with Circe. The two make a fair account of themselves until Circe actually starts fighting back, at which point she reveals that she's just humoring them. Since Circe is a screwball type, they manage to talk their way out of further confrontation.
    • The page quote is taken from "Divided We Fall" after the titular league knock themselves out in the process of destroying the Doomsday Device of a near Physical God Nanomachine-controlling Brainiac/Lex Luthor fusion. "Brainthor", able to rebuild it in a matter of minutes and being utterly undamaged, shrugs it off with the above comment. It is then subverted, when Flash taps into the Speed Force and uses it to demolish the villain atom by atom, faster than his nanomachines can compensate.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In the episode "Speed Demon", When having a race to home from school, the girls end up flying so fast that they end up traveling through time into a Bad Future where "the whole world went to heck" because the girls weren't around to stop HIM. When the girls find HIM, they beat him up as usual, but he just gets up and tells them that fighting them would be pointless; he has already won because of the damage he has done to the world. THEN he goes One-Winged Angel! The girls realize the only thing they can do is travel back through time to the point before they had the race in the first place.
  • Samurai Jack: In the Grand Finale, Jack finally manages to travel back to the past and defeat Aku once and for all! However, as a result of this, his girlfriend Ashi, who was revealed to be Aku's daughter, can not exist due to the Bad Future Aku created never existing in the first place, and she fades away in Jack's arms on their wedding day. Not to mention all of the friends he made in that future being Retconned out of existence.
  • Anything used to try to stop the Beast Planet of Shadow Raiders. Turn your whole planet into an energy gun, the firing of which kills everyone on it? Not even a scratch. Ram it with another planet? It's annoyed. Turn a planet into a bomb and blow it up when The Beast is eating it? Doesn't even get heartburn. The best the heroes do is send it somewhere else, so it just attacks another system.
  • In Star Wars Rebels, the Ghost crew's first encounter with Darth Vader plays out like this. They manage to hold him back and even drop a freaking AT-AT onto him, but it only briefly slows him down as he just blocks their attacks with the Force or shrugs them off through sheer physical strength. Sabine nearly gets killed by a blaster shot to the skull, only being saved by the fact that she was wearing her helmet. He then ends up following the crew to their meeting with the Rebel fleet and wrecks havoc on the Rebels. Crossing over into the latter half of this trope, after this encounter Vader is ordered by the Emperor to break off his pursuit of the crew and so has yet to fight them again.
  • Steven Universe: When the Crystal Gems finally battle the Diamonds, it goes like this: through incredible teamwork, back-up from Lapis, and sheer luck, they manage to fight Blue Diamond to a standstill and actually seem to be hurting her. Then Yellow Diamond suddenly joins in and their line of defense immediately falls apart. The Diamonds soak up every attack thrown at them, while the Crystal Gems can get poofed by a single hit from them. The team is only saved when Steven manages to make Yellow and Blue realize Rose Quartz and Pink Diamond are the same person, at which point they end the fight.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series Lobo makes a pass at Lois, who in disgust, slaps him across the face, only to hurt her hand in the process. Of course, Lobo liked it and asked for another. Superman then obliged, punching Lobo halfway across Metropolis.
  • At the end of the Teen Titans "The End" trilogy, the Titans prepare to face off against Trigon. The only one who doesn't fight is Raven, who has been reduced to a child, lost all her powers, and is convinced the fight is hopeless. The Titans and even Slade fight and manage to actually wound him. Unfortunately, this just pissed him off and he quickly defeats Slade, takes down Cyborg, Starfire, and Beast Boy with one shot, and finally even defeats Robin. Their courage and refusal to give up, however, leads to Raven taking a level in badass and properly punch him out.
  • Something similar happened with Alpha Q's planets in Transformers: Energon. When Unicron came to eat their world Scorponok set off a bomb in the center of the planet in order to destroy him, since their own lives were forfeit anyway. Unfortunately the bomb only sent Unicron into a temporary coma, and when he woke up Alpha Q was trapped inside him, alone and slowly going mad.
  • Transformers: Prime:
    • In Stronger Faster, Ratchet uses synthetic energon to take a level in badass and seems invincible most of the episode, so he gets confident enough to try fighting Megatron, who initially laughs him off as Optimus' "pet medic", before Ratchet punches him across the room. As Ratchet soon learns the hard way, however, all this did was make him mad. Ratchet quickly gets torn open, nearly causing him to bleed dry from Energon loss. He survives, but the Decepticons get away with a sample of the synthetic energon with plans to reverse-engineer it.
    • Wheeljack and Ultra Magnus' fight with Predaking, with the two compensating for Predaking's greater strength through their teamwork and managing to land a beating on him before dropping a giant stalactite on him. They thought they killed him, but what they find the hard way is that only gave him a weapon which he nearly crushes Wheeljack with it and then nearly kills Ultra Magnus.
    • The show's finale Predacons Rising. Optimus Prime manages to permanently stop Unicron by tricking him into opening an empty container that he thought contained the All-Spark, which instead leads to the container sucking out Unicron's spark and trapping him. This unfortunately is followed by a reveal that to pull this off Optimus had to insert the All-Spark into himself and to release it back into Cybertron to fully revive the planet, it meant releasing his own spark to join it, costing him his life.
  • VeggieTales has one. In the episode "King George and the Ducky", while Thomas wins the Pie War singlehandedly, he is (understandably) driven insane from the experience. Some urgent medical care helps him recover, however.
  • Xavier: Renegade Angel: In "Bloodcorn", a down-on-his-luck farmer attempts to make it rain by pointing a gun to the sky and threatening to shoot God if it doesn't rain. When that doesn't work, he fires a bullet into the air and successfully hits God. This does get it to rain, but instead of water, it rains God's blood, which causes every part of nature it touches to come alive with a vengeance against mankind.

    Real Life 
  • In a Humans Are Cthulhu variant, honeybees die whenever they sting a human or anything else with thick skin. They will try to avert this; if they have to give up their life for one tiny attack, they will make sure to make it count. Usually by having the whole hive sting you at once.
  • Eleazar Avaran, one of the leaders of the Maccabean revolt, where the Jews fought for and won their freedom from Seleucid rule. Eleazar killed a war elephant with a spear, but the elephant fell on him and he was crushed to death.


Video Example(s):


Asura's destroyed arms

Asura destroys his arms killing Wyzen at full power.

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Example of:

Main / BrokeYourArmPunchingOutCthulhu

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