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Chain Reaction Destruction

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In older 2D video games, a common way of portraying the destruction of a large mechanical entity (typically, a boss) is to have multiple explosions go off one-by-one all over its surface until it either disintegrates or fully explodes in a giant fireball.

This is an easy effect to achieve with sprite animation - all a game has to do is spawn a series of explosion sprites at random locations. Staggering the explosions in sequence reduces the number of sprites needed on-screen at the same time, which makes it easier for older hardware to handle while still giving a satisfyingly destructive effect. Often the explosions are spawned at a constant rate, giving a characteristic rhythm to this kind of destruction.


Generally, the explosions simply occur at random positions on the entity's body, even if there is nothing at that location that seems like it should be able to explode. In lazier cases, the explosions may not even match the mask of the structure very precisely, causing even seemingly empty air to erupt in flame.

Some games that use this effect attempt to inject more realism by having parts explode in a more logical fashion - for example, having the extremities disintegrate prior to the main body instead of the whole thing just randomly exploding all over.

Obviously, machines in Real Life don't tend to behave this way - if something blows up, it tends to do it all at once rather than in an orderly sequential manner.

A common effect in 2D action games, particularly shoot 'em ups of the 1990s. Subtrope of Stuff Blowing Up, often with Made of Explodium. Not to be confused with Disaster Dominoes.


Examples from Video Games

    open/close all folders 

Destruction after or with the series of explosions

    Action Adventure 

    Action Game 
  • Missile Command is the Trope Codifier of videogaming history. Part of the strategy is that even though you have a limited number of missiles, you try to destroy the missiles at the edge of your explosion, because their explosion can take out other missiles, causing a chain reaction of explosions. Since you get bonus points for unlaunched missiles, it also aids your score.
  • Many, many bosses in Contra series. Sometimes applies to some of the other objects too.
  • The final boss in TankForce.
  • Bosses in Journey to Silius.
  • The final boss of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde NES game.
  • Minibosses and bosses in Low G Man.
  • Bosses in Ninja Gaiden NES games.
  • Some of the smaller bosses in Shadow Of The Ninja.
  • Defensive walls in Shatterhand.
  • Bosses in The Trolls In Crazyland .
  • 2/5 of the bosses in Vice: Project Doom.
  • Numerous bosses in Gunstar Heroes series. Considering that even the regular enemies explode even in a more spectacular fashion than the enemies in Contra series, it's hardly surprising.
  • Bosses and minibosses in Dynamite Duke
  • Stronger enemies, minibosses and bosses in Alien Hominid.
  • Final boss in Michael Jackson's Moonwalker.
  • Bosses and in lesser extent, regular enemies in Madoo Granzort.
  • Bosses in Super Bomberman and Pocket Bomberman.
  • Minibosses, some bosses and some miscellaneous objects in X-Men Mutant Apocalypse.
  • Bosses in Rocket Knight Adventures series.
  • Most mini bosses and bosses in Run Saber.
  • Numerous bosses in Metroid series.
  • Bosses and some of the larger structures in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters!.
  • Bosses and barricades in Ex-Mutants.
  • Non-Robot Master bosses in the Mega Man (Classic) series.
  • Bosses in Cuphead explode repeatedly.
  • The kaiju Wario and giant nose boss in WarioWare Inc: Smooth Moves.

    Beat 'em Up 

    Driving Game 

    First Person Shooter 

    Platform Game 
  • The bosses in ActRaiser
  • The bosses in Moon Crystal. It's strange because large part of the bosses are living creatures.
  • Bosses in NES version of Joe & Mac. Notable that the bosses are dinosaurs.

    Real Time Strategy 

    Role Playing Game 
  • Bosses in Faxanadu.
  • Secret of Evermore bosses get the "simple destruction" variation.
  • Bosses in Adventure Kingdom though, with one last large explosion in the end before destruction.
  • The final boss of Blue Dragon sinks into lava while numerous explosions erupt across his body.

    Shoot 'em Up 

    Simulation Game 

    Wide Open Sandbox 

Series of explosions after destruction

    Action Game 

    Action Adventure 
  • Large normal enemies in Super Metroid turn into a cloud of explosions upon defeat.
  • Bosses in Metal Storm turn into a whole screenful of the best 8-bit explosions ever.
  • Oddly, in Monster Party normal enemies die like this, but not the bosses who just fade away.

    Platform Game 

    Rhythm Game 

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Minibosses and some of the stone walls in Iron Tank.
  • Bosses in Mechanized Attack.
  • Regular enemies in Gaiares.
  • Bosses in Hellfire.
  • Some of the bosses in Lightening Force.
  • Bosses in Syvalion.
  • Larger enemies in Axelay.

    Strategy Game 
  • In Tank Wars, one of the most satisfying things that could happen was seeing your post death explosion take out the tanks that killed you.

Big boom at the end

    Action Game 

    Action Adventure Game 

    Beat Em Up 

    Fighting Game 

    First Person Shooter 

    Platform Game 

    Role Playing Game 
  • In Super Robot Wars, almost everyone explodes with several small explosions followed by a big one. Even living beings like the Radam beasts.

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Bosses in DonPachi.
  • Minibosses and bosses in Gun Nac.
  • Bosses in Ikaruga.
  • Capital chips in Zanac.
  • Bosses in Mushihime Sama series.
  • Bosses in Gaiares.
  • Bosses in M.U.S.H.A..
  • Many bosses from Fraxy.
  • A planet at the beginning of S.C.A.T..
  • Bosses in Bio Metal.
  • Bosses in Raiden games.
  • Star Fox 64 has the train boss crashing into a weapons depot in The Scottish Planet, demonstrating the (at the time) newfangled rumble feature like few games have since. Made all the more satisfying in that going to the planet and the train's demise are both optional.
  • Bosses in Hero Core.
  • Any ship in Escape Velocity will suffer a series of secondary explosions at random intervals, the duration of said series dependent on the ship's DeathDelay stat. If said stat is more than 60 frames, the ship blows up in a huge explosion that damages anything in a radius dependent on the ship's mass.
  • Bosses in later games in the Darius series.

    Simulation Game 
  • Everything bigger than a fighter in FreeSpace. The bigger the ship, the more little explosions go off before the big boom that typically splits the whole ship in half.

    Strategy Game 
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: Sectopods explode four times when destroyed. With Enemy Within running, the last explosion deals considerable damage up to four tiles away.

Series of explosions followed by big white flash

    Action Adventure Game 

    Adventure Game 
  • In Obsidian, if you decide to use the Crossover Switch to crash Ceres' systems, the AI's entire world self-destructs bit by bit, while the Conductor lets out a Big "NO!", before she too explodes in a white flash, ending with the Obsidian structure destroyed and you and Max returned to reality.

    Platform Game 
  • Bosses in the Mega Man X 1-6. X4 and X5 use Akuma's trademark Finishing Move sound effect, just so you know they didn't live through it.
  • Major story bosses (mostly the Bonne fights) in Mega Man Legends.
  • Bosses in Shantae and the Pirate's Curse.
  • Bosses in The Great Battle IV.

    Rail Shooter 

    Role Playing Game 

     Shoot 'em Up 

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Capital ships and space stations in the X-Universe series suffer two or three secondary explosions, then one enormous flash that completely disintegrates ships and leaves a burned-out hulk behind in the case of most stations. Anything corvette-size or smaller explodes immediately in a small fireball, averting the trope. The explosions do no damage in the vanilla game, though various Game Mods such as Xtended add it.
    • Capital ships in X Rebirth will have dozens of explosions go through their hull, then a massive implosion followed by an explosion as the jumpdrive goes critical. Ships near the explosion take massive damage.

Series of explosions followed by something other

    Action Adventure Game 
  • Without actually exploding himself, Balrog from Cave Story does this.
  • Bosses in Metroid Fusion are consumed in explosions before pixellizing into their Core-X forms.
  • Bosses in Alundra erupt all over with brilliant explosion, then give a death cry and fade into blue light.
  • Most bosses in Chaos Legion are covered with dozens of fiery explosions and then simply die.
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow's true ending has the castle explode repeatedly before imploding.

    Fighting Games 

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Bosses from Radiant Silvergun spout fiery explosions and then implode into a tiny ball of light.

    Platform Game 
  • Final boss transforms back in to normal Dr. Chaos after series of explosions.
  • Tor's Humongous Mecha in Iji first has various parts exploding, then what's left disappears with the same special effect it appeared with.
  • The three Captain Syrup final bosses in Wario Land 2 explode repeatedly before both Syrup and her machine fall off the screen.
  • Bass in Mega Man 7 explodes, talks, and teleports away.

Examples from Other Media

Anime & Manga


  • Two examples from Star Wars:
    • The second Death Star in Return of the Jedi exhibits this before its final explosion.
    • In The Phantom Menace, the Trade Federation ship explodes at random points all over its hull before engulfing the command section after Anakin puts two proton torpedoes into one of the reactors.
  • In War of the Worlds, Ray sticks a grenade into a tripod. The tripod then explodes repeatedly and falls over.
  • At the climax of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Planet Ego goes out with a massive chain reaction after Groot's bomb explodes on the core.
  • Green Lantern: Hal Jordan punches Parallax into the sun, causing him to repeatedly explode.
  • The ICSS's self-destruct sequence in Geostorm is this.

Live Action TV


  • When you sink a ship in Black Rose, it explodes several times before sinking for good.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Fireworks factory and fireworks or munitions storage explosions are some of the closest it's possible to get to this trope without deliberately setting it up.
  • This is how several real life aircraft carriers were lost during World War II (and how the USS Forrestal was nearly lost after an accidental fire during the Vietnam War). An aircraft carrier in wartime has a lot of explosive stuff lying around both on and below flight decks (bombs, fuel lines, bombed-up and fueled-up aircraft, etc.) If there is a fire, there is a good chance that fire would spread to these incendiary objects, start a chain reaction, and lead to catastrophic results.
    • Note that ideally, said flammable/explosive things are kept safely stowed away (preferably in protected areas away from each other), but certain operations necessitate moving them to more exposed areas, such as arming and launching aircraft, or moving ammunition from the magazine to the guns. Several Real Life examples of ships being destroyed due to this trope were the result of unsafe practices meant to more quickly move the process along (this was infamously how several of the Royal Navy's battlecruisers met their untimely end at the Battle of Jutland.)
  • The Deepwater Horizon/Macondo blowout and explosion is a modern textbook example of this trope as well as being a case of Disaster Dominoes:
    • The well casing cement fails, allowing wellbore pressure to rise beyond manageable levels.
    • The blowout preventer's annular fails to contain the pressure. The well blows out on the rig floor, venting wellbore contents.
    • The MGS (Mud-Gas Separator, also called a Gasbuster) fails to keep up with the volume of gas in the mud being pushed out of the well. This causes a fail-deadly situation as gas begins to build up around the platform, particularly around the wellhead.
    • Gas is sucked into the platform generator air intakes, causing generators to overspeed until they explode.
    • The fire flashes back to the wellhead.
    • The accumulated gas cloud on the drilling floor and surrounding the platform explodes. This entrenches the fire that will ultimately cause the platform to sink.
  • Decades ago, before the currently accepted models of supermassive black holes and/or large-scale star formation concentrated there fueling them, it was proposed that supernova chain reactions would power active galactic nuclei as quasars.
    • Today, more accurate modeling reveals that individual supernovas are often examples of this trope, with their intensity and duration coming from rapid (on the cosmic scale) cycles of collapse, explosion, and re-collapse of the remaining matter over several hours, days, or weeks until enough kinetic energy has been bled off to collapse fully into a black hole or stellar remnant.


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